Satellite Industry Association ‘encouraged’ by FCC order on bands above 24 GHz

satellite tower (Pixabay)
The FCC's order maintains spectrum in the 48.2-50.2 GHz and 40-42 GHz bands for satellite use. 

So far, the FCC appears to have struck a balance between the goals of terrestrial wireless and satellite interests, at least based on early reads of the millimeter wave spectrum item it passed at its open meeting Thursday.

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) announced that it is initially encouraged by the FCC order regarding the future deployment of wireless services in spectrum bands above 24 GHz.

In a news release, the FCC stated it will adopt rules regarding the use of spectrum that:

  • Maintain spectrum in the 48.2-50.2 GHz and 40-42 GHz bands for satellite use  
  • Adjust the earth station siting rules in core terrestrial wireless bands to provide incentives to site satellite earth stations in less populated areas while continuing to limit the potential for interference of satellite operations to mobile wireless use in these bands

“SIA is initially pleased and commends the FCC for addressing some of the significant concerns of the satellite industry by specifically maintaining 4 GHz of 48.2-50.2 GHz and 40-42 GHz spectrum for use by the satellite industry,” said Tom Stroup, president of SIA, in a written statement. “SIA also appreciates the Commission’s willingness to re-examine the earth station siting rules and we look forward to closely examining the order and the specific provisions regarding aggregate interference before any further comment.”

The satellite industry has made a point of ensuring the FCC and everyone else knows that significant investments continue to be made in satellite technology, which played a key role in providing connectivity after devastating hurricanes in recent weeks. But terrestrial wireless players also like to point out that they’re paying for spectrum at auction rather than getting it for free—and they’re pushing for an auction sooner rather than later when it comes to the millimeter wave bands.

In a blog post, CTIA Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann said the commission today largely maintains its carefully crafted consensus approach for sharing high-band spectrum between the licensed mobile and satellite industries.

“The Commission has given the satellite industry ample opportunity to access spectrum for free, in addition to competing with the wireless industry to purchase rights to use these new high bands,” he said. “We are confident that the wireless industry will put these high bands to use to benefit consumers and our economy.”

It should be noted, however, that Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was not happy with how the final order turned out and spelled out several of her concerns. Last year, the agency adopted a pre-auction limit so that no entity could acquire more than roughly one-third of the spectrum in the 28, 37 and 39 GHz bands.

The order no longer has that requirement, and, all in all, it basically favors the biggest wireless operators. “The majority once again demonstrates in this proceeding that they will take whatever steps are necessary to give large established wireless providers what they want,” she said in prepared remarks.