12 GHz Proponents Say Band Needed to Fill Spectrum Pipeline
Advocates of reallocating the 12 GHz band for 5G are putting on a full-court press for FCC action as early as the February commission meeting. 5Gfor12GHz Coalition members said in interviews their strongest argument is that other than 2.5 GHz, nearly ready for auction, and 3.1-3.45, being looked at for reallocation, no other candidate bands are available for the “spectrum pipeline.” Proponents say action will likely have to wait for Senate confirmation action on FCC nominees and for the Office of Engineering and Technology to wrap up engineering work.
Incompas President Chip Pickering, co-chair of 5Gfor12GHz, said 12 GHz is one of very few bands ready to be reallocated for 5G. “We believe that the record is complete,” he said. The only “hold up” is the pending confirmation votes for Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and commissioner nominee Gigi Sohn, he said. Pickering expects approval of both by the end of the year.
12 GHz is “unlike other bands like 3.1 or 3.45,” Pickering said. “It’s just not encumbered. It doesn’t have any of the federal users, and so the difficulties that other bands have. … It’s a win/win for satellite. We’re not trying to make it where they can’t operate in the band. We want them to be successful.”
SpaceX and OneWeb, both 12 GHz incumbents, are leading opponents of reallocating the band (see 2107080055). In a filing posted last week in docket 20-443, SpaceX hinted at a legal challenge if the FCC moves quickly. “Given the insufficient notice in this docket, any effort to move straight to an order at this stage would clearly be both arbitrary and capricious,” the company said.
“OneWeb would welcome quick action by the FCC, because the record — including the proponents’ most recent study — clearly shows that terrestrial mobile services cannot be introduced into the 12 GHz band without creating harmful interference to incumbents, which was the fundamental question posed in the NPRM,” emailed Eric Graham, director-government and regulatory engagement, North America. “We hope the Commission will act quickly to reject the petitioners’ request and end a proceeding that should not have been opened in the first place.” Graham said lots of spectrum is available for 5G: “In just the past three years, the Commission has made multiple gigahertz of spectrum available for terrestrial mobile services.” SpaceX didn’t comment.
Both sides have been fighting over a May study by RKF Engineering Solutions suggesting sharing is feasible, with only limited interference, even without coordination (see 2109280059). “At this point, I’m waiting to see how the engineering shakes out,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told reporters last month. The FCC declined comment.
“It’s getting more and more difficult to find ways to bring large swaths of frequencies to market and any opportunity we can identify for very large channels to bring to the 5G ecosystem very rapidly we should move very aggressively to pursue,” said RS Access CEO Noah Campbell. With no federal incumbents 12 GHz “is a prime, prime opportunity” to find spectrum for 5G, he said. Campbell is hoping for “a rapid analysis of the hard engineering work that we’ve submitted into the record.”
The FCC “now looks settled,” though no one can predict when the FCC confirmations will happen, said coalition co-Chair Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary. “The attention rightly turns to 12 GHz,” he said. “There’s no real federal encumbrance, which is what gums up the works” in other bands, he said. “All it takes is a rulemaking; it’s not instituting another auction,” he said. The FCC is putting less emphasis on politics and more on “scientific and engineering studies,” he said: “The coalition believes very strongly” the studies show wireless broadband “certainly can coexist in the band and that there are huge benefits for that.”
“There’s not a lot of spectrum left,” said Jeff Blum, Dish Network executive vice president-external and legislative affairs. “Other issues that have plagued other bands, they’re not present here. There’s no federal incumbent. There’s no GPS issues. There’s no people who want to leave the band and have private secondary market transactions.”
The band was already auctioned but is subject to 20-year-old, pre-iPhone rules, Blum said. “With the advent in 5G and all the technological advances, we can coexist,” he said. Blum noted Dish’s satellite TV depends on 12 GHz. “We’re an incumbent, and we want to share,” he said. The propagation characteristics are also “much, much better” than higher bands, with a need for fewer towers to deploy, he said. Blum labeled opponents “the anti-5G side. … That’s what they are. They want to prevent this band from being used for 5G at all. They want it all for themselves.” SpaceX hasn’t offered any interference studies, he said. “If SpaceX believes that sharing is not possible, why wouldn’t” they “hire an expert,” he asked.
Coalition members reported on a call with Wireless Bureau staff, in a filing posted Monday. “The Coalition cited the various demonstrations in the record from experts, public interest groups, Coalition members, and other stakeholders of how a new mobile allocation will meet the statutory standards for flexible use under [Communications Act] Section 303 (y) — specifically, that such a reallocation would be in the public interest, would not deter investment, and would not cause harmful interference among incumbents in the band,” the group said.