Dish presses FCC to reject SpaceX plan for 12 GHz band

Dish Network
Dish provided an update on its wireless network progress and urged the FCC to act on a petition to unleash 500 MHz of new 5G-ready spectrum in the 12 GHz band. (Dish Network)

Dish Network has been pretty quiet lately on the 12 GHz front, but this week its executives paid a virtual visit to the FCC urging commissioners to act on a long-standing petition for rulemaking and reject a call by SpaceX to use the band for satellites.

In two separate meetings with FCC staff and Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr, Dish provided an update on its progress in the wireless business as well as its designs for the 12 GHz band. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen participated, as well as Dish EVP Tom Cullen and several others.

In 2016, satellite TV provider Dish petitioned the FCC for a rulemaking to permit 5G services in the 12 GHz band. Specifically, it sought the ability for sharing in the band between incumbent direct-to-home satellite services and mobile broadband services.

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More recently, SpaceX entered the picture with grand plans to use the band for its Starlink satellite service, which it says will help deliver broadband to rural America. Since then, several entities have called for the FCC to initiate a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would examine all the potential use cases for the band and come up with a plan for it.

During its recent meetings with the FCC, Dish explained that granting a pending SpaceX application to use the 12 GHz band for satellite use would “permanently foreclose use of the band for terrestrial 5G.” This would not be in the public interest given the clear potential benefits for 5G, “especially when SpaceX seeks thousands of megahertz of other spectrum suitable for its planned uses,” Dish stated in an ex parte filing (PDF). “Moving forward by initiating a neutral rulemaking on the 12 GHz Band will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to weigh in on the Petition and address any interference concerns.”

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Dish, which holds licenses in the band covering 75% of the U.S. population, appears to be getting support on a number of fronts. RS Access, which holds licenses covering 15%, has been lobbying for an NPRM, as well as others.

RELATED: Dish, SpaceX drive calls for new look at 12 GHz band

This week, a group led by Public Knowledge and the Open Institute at New America said (PDF) the 12 GHz band provides an opportunity to adopt a sharing framework that “greatly expands the availability of spectrum for both fixed and mobile broadband deployments with midband propagation characteristics significantly better than the millimeter wave bands at 24 GHz and beyond.”

They point out that when 12 GHz rules were established in 2000, it was a very different world. At that time, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) was a fast-growing service and much of the use of the band was as a means of supplementing DBS. However, DBS today is rapidly losing customers while broadband satellite providers that use an entirely different technology from DBS are poised to enter the market.  

“While we are sensitive to SpaceX’s interference concerns, we believe the best way to resolve these concerns is through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking where the Commission makes concrete proposals and invites all interested parties to provide comment and engineering analysis,” the group told FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Rural America deserves not just one broadband provider, but competition. While no one can guarantee the certainty the success of either new satellite broadband technology or any specific wireless provider, we believe maximizing the number of potential providers through a 12 GHz rulemaking offer the best chance for rural Americans to have both broadband access and broadband competition.”

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