The C-Band Alliance (CBA) says it has no objections to the safeguards that several content companies—including CBS and The Walt Disney Company—believe are necessary to protect their interests should the FCC allow a portion of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band to be allocated for terrestrial mobile use.
The content companies, which also include Fox Corp., Univision Communications and Viacom, recently held a series of meetings (PDF) with legal advisers of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the four commissioners. The content companies described the types of safeguards they believe are necessary to preserve the C-band distribution system that operates at 3.7-4.2 GHz.
First and foremost, they said, maintaining reliable video delivery requires keeping at least 300 MHz available for video downlinks in the repacked C-band. Thus, no more than 200 MHz (inclusive of guard band spectrum) should be repurposed—an argument that the CBA has made as well. Some commissioners and certainly members of the wireless industry would like to see more than 200 MHz.
The CBA acknowledged that it's not surprising that it's interests are aligned with the content companies given they are customers of CBA members. The CBA's proposal is designed, after all, to quickly repurpose some spectrum while ensuring no loss of service to existing C-band customers.
The topic of the C-band also came up during an FCC accountability hearing Wednesday held by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., said he’s heard the C-band spectrum may be worth upwards of $70 billion and asked commissioners if it’s better for that money to go toward the development of broadband in rural areas or into the pockets of foreign satellite companies.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she believes the FCC needs to consult with Congress to identify what to do next with C-band. Commissioner Geoffrey Starks agreed, saying it’s going to be important to maximize the amount that comes to the U.S. Treasury and make sure there’s no private windfall.
Chairman Pai said that while he’s sympathetic to the gist of Doyle’s question, the commission has teed up a variety of options for the band and it’s meeting with stakeholders on them. His agency already has been criticized by some for taking too long to get midband spectrum out there, and he’s concerned that involving Congress would further extend the timeline.
“If you think you’re getting flack for not moving quick enough, watch how much flack you’d get if you let four foreign satellite companies keep all the money,” Doyle said.
The commission has been considering various proposals for how to reallocate some C-band spectrum for 5G and the satellite companies have taken heat for seeking a windfall from spectrum they don’t own.
The CBA insists its plan is the most expeditious way to get the spectrum into the hands of wireless carriers, while others say it will only lead to more litigation that extends the timeframe.
“The C-Band Alliance members have been serving American interests with reliable satellite services for four decades,” CBA said in a statement provided to FierceWireless. “We continue to do so by putting forth the only proposal that frees the spectrum needed to deploy 5G services in the U.S., which will generate enormous economic growth. Importantly, our proposal clears this spectrum in 18-36 months—all while protecting vital television and radio programming that are enjoyed by Americans every day. The immense economic benefits of the swift deployment of 5G across the U.S. creates the opportunity for the U.S. to address other technology concerns, including the rural broadband gap.”