Coalition gets pushback on P2MP plan for 3.7-4.2 GHz

Rural (Pixabay)
The Broadband Access Coalition says that making available 300 MHz in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for fixed wireless access will enable service providers to quickly deploy gigabit or near-gigabit broadband service to rural America. (Pixabay)

The Broadband Access Coalition (BAC) continues to advocate for making spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band available for point-to-multipoint (P2MP) fixed wireless service, but other wireless industry stakeholders and satellite operators are opposed to it.

The BAC, which includes Baicells Technologies, Cambium Networks, Rise Broadband, Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute at New America and others, is pushing a solution (PDF) that protects incumbent fixed satellite service (FSS) from harmful interference, clears 200 megahertz in the lower portion of the band for exclusive flexible use licensing and makes available—on a shared, frequency-coordinated basis with FSS—300 megahertz of spectrum in the upper portion of the band for fixed P2MP broadband providers to deploy high-throughput broadband to unserved and underserved customers, particularly in rural areas.

Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat formed the C-Band Alliance last month to oversee an efficient way of clearing and repurposing the 3.7-4.2 GHz band that the wireless industry has identified as crucial for 5G. The C-Band Alliance argues that its market-based approach will lead to the fastest way to get the spectrum into the market while avoiding lengthy commission intervention and oversight that would come with an auction.

But the C-Band Alliance is also telling the FCC (PDF) to reject the BAC’s proposal to add “incompatible” P2MP operations to the C-Band downlink, saying that proposal would disrupt critical incumbent satellite operations and effectively prevent satellite operators from clearing spectrum for terrestrial 5G services.

Intelsat, SES and Intel also submitted separate comments (PDF) arguing that the BAC proposal is not feasible and that it’s incompatible with expanded terrestrial mobile 5G use of the band. “It is illogical to incentivize FSS operators to clear spectrum for 5G mobile use while also mandating new P2MP fixed operations that will make that clearing much more difficult, if not impossible,” they wrote.

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The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), for its part, said (PDF) the 3.7-4.2 GHz band represents an important opportunity to make mid-band spectrum available on a flexible-use basis, and it’s generally supportive of market-based mechanisms to achieve that goal. TIA said it has been monitoring the work of the C-Band Alliance and that the commission should seriously consider its latest proposal.

And while some have noted that a private sale would create opportunities to price spectrum above what a truly competitive market would support, the commission must also consider that opening spectrum more rapidly would significantly benefit the public interest, the organization noted.

But TIA is not in favor of the BAC proposal to establish specific rules and frequency ranges within the band dedicated to P2MP use of the band. The commission is “appropriately” proposing to sunset point-to-point (P2P) services and introducing a dedicated P2MP service with uncertain market potential could lead to unnecessarily cluttering the band, according to TIA. Numerous other bands are available or could be made available for P2MP use, such as the adjacent 3.5 GHz band or potentially the 4.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands, it suggests.

In its favor, the BAC is backed by the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC), which includes Open Technology Institute at New America, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union and seven other organizations. PISC is urging the commission (PDF) to authorize fixed P2MP broadband operators to coordinate shared use of unused spectrum on a licensed or opportunistic basis across the entire 3.7-4.2 GHz band.

PISC also says that while reallocating lightly-used FSS spectrum for 5G flexible use licensing is in the public interest, it should not be accomplished through a private auction or negotiated sale controlled by a few incumbent and foreign-based companies and with no return of the anticipated $10 billion to $30 billion or more to the U.S. Treasury.