C-Band proposal on FCC’s July agenda

Headlining the FCC’s July meeting agenda is a proposal to make more intensive use of mid-band spectrum from 3.7 to 4.2 GHz, commonly called the C-band. (Pixabay)

The FCC will vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks more detailed feedback on how to make better use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, commonly known as the C-Band.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the plan in a blog post, where he noted the commission initiated a Notice of Inquiry on the band last summer. Since then, stakeholders have come up with a number of creative ideas, he said.

One of those ideas is a proposal by satellite companies to make 100 MHz of C-Band spectrum available for 5G by negotiating directly through a satellite consortium with wireless operators. But terrestrial wireless industry vendors and operators say they need more like 100 MHz for each operator nationwide to make it worthwhile.

RELATED: Google, Intelsat spar over C-Band

The Open Technology Institute at New America hosted an event last week where it was clear that parties interested in using the C-Band are still on very different paths when it comes to the future of the band.

The FCC issued a public notice in April imposing a temporary freeze on applications to add or modify fixed-satellite service (FSS) earth station licenses, receive-only registrations and fixed microwave licenses in the 3.7-4.2 GHz frequency band. The FCC also created a 90-day window during which operators of existing FSS stations can register or license a station that is currently in use. 

Intelsat and SES said in a June 18 filing (PDF) with the FCC that they are “gravely concerned” that adhering to the FCC’s current registration procedure would make it unlikely that many operators of receive-only earth stations will actually prepare and submit the required information and pay the filing fee of $435 for each earth station.

For example, Intelsat said a religious broadcaster uses Intelsat capacity to deliver programming to more than 3,700 unregistered receive-only earth stations in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, and it doesn’t have the resources to gather the kind of information the FCC requires—plus the filing fees on a per-site basis would end up being more than $1.6 million.

To encourage receive-only earth station operators to register their sites, SES and Intelsat are asking the commission to allow applicants to make a single submission that includes multiple earth station sites with payment of a single fee. They argue the submission also should be limited to the information that is necessary for the FCC to understand the extent of earth station deployment as it considers introducing new terrestrial services in the C-Band.

In other spectrum band news, Pai also said the FCC will move forward with a rulemaking for the 6 GHz band this fall.

RELATED: WISPA supports 6 GHz plan put forth by Google, Facebook, Apple and more

A group of tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Apple, has been pushing the FCC to put out a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) so that some action will happen in that band. They argue that it is safe to introduce unlicensed devices in such a way as to not harmfully interfere with incumbents, which include fixed microwave links.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), for one, earlier this week said it can generally support the framework for spectrum sharing that the tech group is proposing and that it’s an excellent starting point for an NPRM.