5G in 12 GHz Proponents Still Expect FCC Order Despite Pushback
Advocates of a proposal to use the 12 GHz band for 5G told us they expect SpaceX to launch a late campaign opposing the change and think the FCC is still on a path to authorizing operations in coming months. Leaders of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition say all signs are that the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology is fully engaged in working through the engineering and whether the band can be used for 5G without causing harmful interference to incumbents. OneWeb also raised concerns (see 2207120058).
“We’re getting close and the engineering and the facts are on our side,” said Incompas President Chip Pickering. “SpaceX is responding in desperation in a political attempt to stall the proceeding,” he said. “We feel like there’s tremendous momentum at the engineering level,” he said.
Pickering took a swipe at SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. “Whether it’s Twitter, or 12 GHz, Elon Musk just can’t be trusted,” he said: “In this case there’s too much at stake — U.S. competitiveness with China, closing the digital divide, promoting competition and consumer welfare.” SpaceX “is a great American story,” he said. “This is unnecessary. We can share. It can be win-win. But it needs to be on the facts, it needs to be on the truth, it needs to be on the engineering.”
“SpaceX wants to sideline 500 MHz of mid-band spectrum that can be used for 5G, and we think that would be an unfortunate result for the public,” said Jeff Blum, Dish executive vice president-external and legislative affairs. “We, as a coalition, don’t want to fight with SpaceX, we want to share,” he said: “They’re the ones who don’t want to share. They want no 5G use at all when we need more 5G not less 5G. We need more mid-band spectrum to help competition here in the U.S.”
The coalition thinks the FCC should be allowed to complete its analysis of the engineering, said RS Access CEO Noah Campbell. “They’ve been working on it for several months now,” he said: “The FCC is the expert agency within the federal government related to frequency and coexistence between different users in spectrum. It’s very straightforward for us.” If the FCC’s analysis finds sharing will work in the band, “I can’t imagine why the FCC wouldn’t move forward,” Campbell said.
The other side isn’t backing down. “The public record speaks for itself,” a OneWeb spokesperson emailed: “More than 90,000 consumers and dozens of organizations that support thousands of small businesses have told the FCC in no uncertain terms that stacking the deck in favor of unrealized plans from spectrum speculators would sabotage the badly needed satellite-powered broadband that’s already starting to come online and is helping close the digital divide in this country.”
The OneWeb spokesperson said the FCC has a pretty clear choice to make. “We are confident they will listen to the people and ensure continuity of the satellite broadband services being provided today.” SpaceX didn’t comment.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC is looking at the “criteria that should be used for assessing interference between mobile and satellite services” in 12 GHz (see 2205170052), in a recent response to Congress. “A wide range of legal, technical, and policy experts” from the Wireless and International bureaus and OET “are engaged in this review, analyzing … questions, and coordinating, as necessary, with other federal authorities in the process,” she said.
Former FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly expects the FCC to act on 12 GHz. O’Rielly said he does work for parties on both sides. “Whether stand-alone or part of a macro package, the stars are definitely aligning to allow terrestrial service in 12 GHz,” O’Rielly emailed: “I see it as near inevitable given the overall science/engineering and the absolute need for more 5G mid band spectrum. As it’s done in the very recent past, the Commission can push through any naysayers selling stale rhetoric and empty doom.”
An order is “very possible” in coming months, said Greg Guice, Public Knowledge director-government affairs. “The data in the record demonstrates that satellite, 5G and unlicensed underlay could exist in the band and, given the need for efficient use of spectrum, they should follow the science on this,” he said. “There is a real opportunity to ensure not only greater competition in the mobile wireless space, but also greater access for consumers and innovators that could put an unlicensed underlay to good use,” he said.
Digital Progress Institute President Joel Thayer noted Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr has also said he would support 5G in 12 GHz if the engineering supports sharing. “I don’t see how outside mudslinging from SpaceX helps its cause, especially when the engineering seems to be on the side of Dish and RS Access,” he said.