CBA hits back at critics of its C-band proposal

satellite earth station
CBA says it has committed to making a significant contribution to the U.S. Treasury. (Pixabay)

The C-Band Alliance (CBA) is striking back at critics of its proposal to clear C-band spectrum for 5G, saying it wants to correct misstatements by witnesses at an Oct. 29 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications & Technology.

In a Nov. 7 letter to subcommittee Chairman Michael Doyle, (D-Pennsylvania) and ranking member Bob Latta (R-Ohio), the CBA is once again said that time is of the essence, and that no other proposal before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) frees up the C-band spectrum for 5G as quickly as the CBA’s plan does while preserving the distribution of video and radio services that the band facilitates.

It also invokes the theory that it’s a global race to 5G and losing to China, which just launched 5G, would bring “dire economic and national security consequences, and give China the power to unilaterally establish the technological rules of the road for decades to come.”

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During the hearing last month, witnesses suggested the type of auction proposed by CBA would violate the Communications Act and lead to litigation that would further delay the process. 

But CBA argues that what would really be unlawful is the forcible taking of CBA members’ spectrum. The FCC lacks authority to confiscate C-band spectrum without compensating the satellite operators that currently use the it. Given this legal uncertainty, an FCC auction is "bound to be delayed by protracted litigation," it said.

“Some witnesses have claimed that the CBA’s members do not ‘own’ their spectrum, and imply that CBA members have no protectable rights over their spectrum,” wrote CBA EVP Peter Pitsch. “In reality, the CBA’s members all have legally enforceable and protected FCC spectrum license or market access rights, and invested many billions of dollars maintaining their licenses, launching satellites, connecting earth stations and undertaking decades of investments bringing video distribution services of unmatched quality to the continental United States.”

In addition, he said, the spectrum reduction and clearance resulting from the C-band transition will require billions of dollars of investments in many new satellites, customer hardware, filter technology and filter installation in 30,000 to 35,000 earth station antennas across the U.S.

RELATED: C-Band Alliance taken to task in FCC oversight hearing

Under CBA's  plan, its fixed satellite service member companies—Intelsat, SES and Telesat—would voluntarily clear a portion of the C-band spectrum for 5G. They would then relocate their services to the upper portion of the band, and continue to transmit video and radio content to cable programmers, broadcasters and local TV and radio stations across the U.S.

Critics of the CBA proposal have questioned why the U.S. government would let foreign satellite companies reap the benefits of a spectrum auction that could bring in upwards of $60 billion. Previous FCC-led auctions have contributed to the U.S. Treasury.

CBA said it has committed to making a “significant contribution to the U.S. Treasury,” although it does not specify a percentage or amount. According to the alliance, “a portion of auction proceeds, in excess of those needed to cover the costs for the auction and the transition of the spectrum, will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.”

RELATED: AT&T peddles modified auction approach for C-band

Meanwhile, executives form the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) recently met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to discuss the importance of preserving the C-band for content distribution, according to an ex parte filing (PDF). Its members have worked closely with the CBA to examine compression and other technologies to allow for the reallocation of more than 200 MHz of spectrum while protecting content distribution.

Such potential modifications are not without risk, the NAB told the commission, saying higher order modulation may decrease reliability, and it remains to be seen whether the use of additional compression in a distribution architecture that already relies on compression will introduce "additional visual artifacts" that will detract from the viewing experience.

NAB said it took a lead role in negotiating the shared use of spectrum broadcasters currently use at 2025-2110 MHz with the Department of Defense (DoD), facilitating DoD’s move out of the 1755-1780 MHz band, which allowed the commission to include this spectrum in the AWS-3 auction.

It also took a dig at the wireless industry, saying “while other industries insist that innovation requires the constant allocation of additional spectrum, broadcasters are seeking to transition to the next generation of television within the existing television band. In contrast, to move to the next generation of wireless service, the wireless industry is yet again requesting hundreds of megahertz of unencumbered spectrum in this proceeding.”

The organization added that If the commission finds it imperative to reallocate more mid-band spectrum for 5G, it need not confine itself to the C-band, suggesting it might look to auction a portion of the 6 GHz band rather than making the entire band available for unlicensed use.

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