12 GHz Proponents Say Agreement Can Be Reached on Sharing Band
Proponents of using the 12 GHz band for 5G said Tuesday they see room for compromise with satellite incumbents. The remarks came during a New America/Public Knowledge webinar Tuesday. Speakers were hopeful for action once the FCC has a full slate of commissioners.
The band should be easier to make available for 5G than the C band, said Digital Progress Institute President Joel Thayer. “It’s a large swath” of spectrum at 500 MHz, he said. Satellites could use the band in rural areas and carriers for 5G in urban markets, he said. “You have significant geographical … distance that will serve as a buffer,” he said. “You can’t simply say it’s only for 5G or only for rural. It’s actually for all.” Sharing is “probably the way forward,” he said.
Satellite companies haven’t entered any technical studies into the FCC record that show 12 GHz can’t be shared, said Kathleen Burke, PK policy counsel. “The only technical record … that is in the record says that [sharing] is possible and demonstrates that it’s possible,” she said. Any incumbent with an exclusive license in a band is always going to fight sharing, she said. “That’s just not the reality of how these things play out,” she said.
Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, defended satellite interest in the band. “There has been some recent innovation in satellite that’s worth looking at,” she said: “Low orbital satellites have the potential” to reach “some of the areas that are the hardest to serve.” The FCC may want to “get everybody on board” rather than picking “winners and losers” in the band, she said. “There’s going to be a lot more debate on this,” she predicted. “No one should hog the spectrum,” she said.
Allowing only satellite use of the band would eliminate use outside remote areas, said Ryan Johnston, Next Century Cities policy counsel-federal programs. “Satellite isn’t going to work in urban communities,” he said. “There are a lot of things that 12 GHz can help create,” he said: “Simply saying … this is only for one type of provider will cut off everyone else.”
SpaceX is the most vocal opponent and won’t give ground, though its business model targets rural markets, Thayer said. Incumbents outside of SpaceX are “playing nicely and trying to figure out what’s the best way forward,” he said. SpaceX didn’t immediately comment. “We’re fighting over peanuts,” Thayer said.
The FCC should be able to act on 12 GHz once Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is confirmed by the Senate to another commission term and Gigi Sohn to fill the open commissioner seat, predicted Matthew Rantanen, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association director-technology. The FCC has been “stuck in the mud,” he said: “It’ll open up the process again where we can move things through.” The tribes have good relationships with both nominees, he said. “Tribes welcome the idea of opportunistic sharing of the 12 GHz band,” he said. Right now they don’t have enough spectrum to “build an entire network,” he said.
Rosenworcel “understands spectrum policy,” Turner Lee said. “We’ll see things get done.”