Saturday, April 6, 2019

Will ITU Refarm All C-Band Spectrum for 5G?

Later in 2019, at the World Radio Conference later this year (WRC-19), it is perhaps likely that the entire C-band spectrum presently used by satellite operators will be reallocated for IMT-2000 (5G) purposes.

That is some of the backdrop to current discussions by the satellite, cable TV and other interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, about reallocating up to 500-MHz of spectrum presently allocated for C-band satellite, to 5G, itself a component of the overall 5G FAST plan.  

“I believe the best option would be to pursue a proposal put forth by a large, ad hoc coalition of equipment manufacturers, wireless providers, and unlicensed users,” said FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly. “They recommend that the FCC allocate spectrum now used for satellite C-Band downlinks (3.7 to 4.2 GHz) for licensed mobile communications and designate 6 GHz spectrum (5.925 to 7.125), which includes the C-Band uplink, for unlicensed use.”

If approved, this approach would free up 1700 megahertz of spectrum, 500 megahertz for licensed and up to 1.2 gigahertz for unlicensed purposes.

Satellite and mobile interests seem always at odds about spectrum allocation, so positions on the latest efforts in C-band will not be foreign.

A report by an advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, co-written by vice president of wireless at Google, Milo Medin and tech venture capitalist Gilman Louie makes the point that such a development hinges on use of spectrum sharing, as has been pioneered by Citizens Broadband Radio Service.

The report recommends the “NTIA, FCC and Department of State should advocate the reallocation of the C-band satellite spectrum to IMT-2000 5G use at the World Radio Conference later this year (WRC-19), and take measures to adopt sharing in all 500 MHz of the band in the United States on an accelerated basis for fixed operations.”

A shift of former C-band satellite spectrum in the 4-GHz region might also be more important than some believe, if global 5G supply chains and service providers build product volume in the 3-GHz to 4-GHz frequency ranges.

“In the near term, 3 and 4 GHz spectrum will likely serve as the dominant global bands that drive volume in infrastructure and device deployments,” the authors argue.

And that provides some idea of the importance of how the Federal Communications Commission sets policy for refarming as much as 500 MHz of C-band spectrum in the United States, which is in the crucial band the authors say will be an area of robust supply chain focus.

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