The C-Band Alliance (CBA) on Friday submitted to the Federal Communications Commission an updated transition plan (PDF) describing how it would clear up to 300 MHz of C-band spectrum if the FCC accepts the CBA’s proposal.
Described as the result of months of work by the CBA, the plan describes how the CBA would implement technology upgrades and compression solutions to maximize efficient use of spectrum and how customer services will be repacked into higher frequency bands without service interruption.
It also discusses how eight new satellites will be launched, as well as the design and installation of about 100,000 filters on an estimated 35,000 antennas in the continental U.S. The plan will ensure the antennas are tuned and pointed correctly to receive the same content after the clearing is completed, and it contains commitments from the CBA to cover transition and implementation costs incurred by customers and end users who use the C-band today.
“The new Transition Implementation Process provides a comprehensive execution plan that demonstrates how the CBA will complete the complex task of clearing 300 MHz of C-band spectrum to enable the speedy rollout of 5G in the continental U.S., while protecting the important incumbent content ecosystem,” said Peter Pitsch, head of Advocacy and Government Relations at CBA, in a statement. “No other proposal offers this level of detail, and no other proposal would free up C-band spectrum as quickly or in such a coordinated and accountable manner. Bottom line, clearing mid-band spectrum for 5G with a market-based approach will speed economic growth, generating tax receipts, jobs, and other social benefits years faster than any alternative.”
In an investment report over the weekend, New Street Research analyst Blair Levin noted that the CBA's most recent document is significantly less detailed than various stakeholders have been calling for. "As discussed before, this 'four corners' strategy of sitting on a lead and running out the clock has certain advantages with the biggest one being a limited time for public comment, assuming a filing of the details just before the circulation" of an item at the FCC, he wrote, adding that it also has certain disadvantages, including increasing litigation risk.
Late last month, Verizon, AT&T, Bluegrass Cellular, Pine Belt Wireless and U.S. Cellular signaled (PDF) they’re on board with the CBA on a broad set of principles to guide an auction of C-band spectrum. However, AT&T followed that up with a filing that acknowledged the legal threats to the CBA’s plan and urged the FCC to conduct a more thorough notice and comment period before an auction, and for the FCC to be closely involved in the auction.
Interestingly, while the CBA has not said how much money it expects will go to the U.S. Treasury, Eutelsat, the satellite operator that exited the alliance in September, visited commissioner offices last week (PDF), and among its talking points was a proposal for allocating up to 50% of the auction proceeds to the U.S. Treasury. The remainder would be allocated among C-band satellite operators based on a mathematical formula.
Eutelsat suggested the commission could require each C-band satellite operator to clear 100 MHz of spectrum at 3.7-3.8 GHz in the top 50 partial economic areas (PEAs) in the 48 contiguous states within 18 months following the close of an auction, and 300 MHz of spectrum within 36 months after the close of an auction.