WASHINGTON, December 26, 2022 – Satellite service provider OneWeb is in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to open up crucial middle-band spectrum in the 12.7-13.25 GigaHertz (GHz) band for mobile wireless use, given the outstanding fight between satellite and terrestrial service providers over the lower portion of the 12 GHz band.
The FCC has released a notice of inquiry inviting input on how the 12.7-13.25 GHz band could be expanded to include mobile broadband services to decrease interference in the heavily populated 12 GHz band.
The 12.7 GHz band in the United States is primarily allocated to Fixed Service, Fixed Satellite Service, and Mobile Service with limited federal use. The notice of inquiry acknowledges that the need for mobile broadband access for Americans continues to grow “unabated,” necessitating the expansion into more frequency ranges.
The inquiry states that the 12.7 band is “ideal” for the commission to consider as it is already allocated for mobile services on a primary basis domestically, and it appears to be lightly used.
OneWeb, formerly known as WorldVu, is in support of expanding the 12.7 band as it says it reduces congestion on the adjacent 12 GHz band, which has historically hosted fixed satellite systems.
“[It] offers terrestrial operators the requested bandwidth of mid-band spectrum with the same beneficial propagation characteristics present in the 12 GHz band, but with substantially less disruption to incumbent satellite operations and associated harm to American consumers,” read its comment.
The inquiry recognizes that there are alternative, and likely superior, solutions for providing additional mid- band spectrum than by creating new allocations in the heavily used 12 GHz band, continued OneWeb in its comment.
For years, OneWeb claimed, certain 12 GHz terrestrial licensees have demonstrated no regard for “unacceptable” interference they could cause to incumbent satellite operations making intensive use of the 12 GHz band.
Inquiry comes at time when debate over flexible use of the 12 GHz has raged
There has been considerable debate on whether 5G operations can be shared on the 12 GHz spectrum with satellite service providers. Executives at OneWeb argued at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event that mobile use of the 12 GHz band would “wipe out” the relatively weak satellite signals.
A study published in 2021 by consultancy RKF Engineering Solutions, however, found that the coexistence of 5G and satellite operations in the 12 GHz band was readily achievable, with less than 1 percent of satellite operations being interrupted by terrestrial broadband.
Satellite broadband service provider Starlink refuted the study , claiming that it is a “fatally flawed” analysis that washes over the interference consequences that will allegedly happen if spectrum is shared with 5G operations. According to Starlink, the study assumes that 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas and disregards the interference suffered by satellite terminals on the ground.
Pressure on the FCC continues to increase as industry advocacy group 5G for 12 GHz Coalition with its 36 members argues for the inclusion of the next generation wireless technology into the expansion of the 12 GHz band.
Backlash against expanding into 12.7 GHz Band
Other satellite companies, however, are skeptical of the expansion into the 12.7 band that the NOI proposes.
Canada-based satellite provider Kepler Communications told the commission that increased terrestrial use of the 12.7 GHz band may be unworkable as it raises the risk of interference to the adjacent 12 GHz band.
IntelSat, a multinational satellite service provider, said the 12.7 GHz band shares more technical characteristics with millimeter wave frequencies, which have limited utility for terrestrial mobile broadband, than true mid-band frequencies in the 3 – 6 GHz range. It claimed that the band would not be suitable for mobile broadband uses and would simply interfere with the “highly valuable” fixed satellite services operations currently using the band.
Eutelsat satellite network urged the commission to adopt rules that expand satellite access to the 12.7 GHz band rather than introducing potentially interfering mobile broadband operations in its comments.