The Critical Campaign to Safeguard C-band

Envision this future headline: “Public Outcry as Final Minutes of World Cup Soccer Lost Due to Wireless Interference”. While this may seem impossible in today’s world, it could very well become a reality if the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) favors the reallocation of some C-band spectrum rights to mobile providers.

The International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) community is seeking additional spectrum for wireless services. The C-band frequencies (3400-4200 MHz and 5850-6425 MHz) are a target, and these bands are used heavily by the satellite industry in support of many critical services, including worldwide broadcasting and content distribution applications.

IMT services in the C-band have the potential to cause excessive levels of harmful interference and might preclude future use of this band for satellite services.

The IMT community is promoting the notion that C-band satellite applications can easily be moved to other frequency bands. However, broadcasters and programmers understand that there is simply no substitute for C-band when it comes to mass distribution of content to geographically dispersed areas.

A single satellite beam can transmit content to hundreds of millions of persons at the same time. With availability on more than 170 satellites around the world, C-band is the workhorse of the broadcasting and programming industries.

Broadcasters and programmers worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the issue at hand, and are demonstrating their commitment to protect the spectrum upon which they depend. For example, the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) commissioned sharing studies between satellite and IMT services, including proposed IMT indoor small-cell deployments. The studies concluded that sharing between satellite and IMT in the C-band would not be feasible.

NABA has successfully channeled the results of these studies through the ITU process in preparation for WRC-15. It also has addressed these results in the United States, discussing the findings on Capitol Hill and in front of the Federal Communications Commission.

Assessing True Spectrum Requirements
The casual observer may assume that, because mobile usage is growing, more spectrum will be required to support that growth. However, that assumption is incorrect. Technology has advanced to the point that more spectrum is not necessarily required to serve more mobile users. In fact, much of the research that has been done by the wireless industry on this issue to justify more spectrum appears to rely on questionable data.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) critically examined the huge spectrum requirements that the IMT community, through Report ITU-R M.2290, put forward. According to the EBU’s findings, a number of assumptions underlying the IMT’s spectrum calculation are flawed, resulting in IMT spectrum requirements that are greatly overestimated.

The presumably inaccurate assumptions were noted independently by various telecommunications experts and by the satellite industry. A request submitted by the satellite industry to the ITU expert group on this matter has to date remained unanswered.

As the EBU asserts, before making any decision on new spectrum allocations to IMT, it is important to ensure that the incremental benefits to society of providing new spectrum for mobile use will exceed the economic and social costs of displacement of existing users.

If regulators around the world are not thoughtful about the manner in which these new terrestrial systems are allowed to operate in or adjacent to frequency bands used to provide satellite services, then there can be unintended consequences for the many critical services supported by the satellite industry throughout the world.

Moreover, the proposed deployment of broadband wireless systems could greatly constrain the expansion of both systems in the future, and have unintended negative consequences for consumers and businesses alike – even disaster-recovery efforts. With a loss of C-band spectrum, satellite-based telecommunication services to remote areas – including television broadcasting – could be endangered.

Innovation Ensures Efficient Spectrum Use
Leading satellite operators have proven their commitment to innovation, to ensure the efficient use of all satellite frequency bands. Newly introduced high-throughput satellite (HTS) technologies will provide unprecedented bandwidth and power resources. HTS systems will combine exceptional spectrum efficiency and performance to enable unprecedented levels of bandwidth and throughput which, as a result, will bring both improved speeds and lower costs.

Intelsat’s next-generation HTS platform, EpicNG, will deliver global high-throughput technology without sacrificing user control of service elements and hardware – not just in Ka-band, but also in Ku- and C-band.

A Call to Action
Before reallocating critical C-band spectrum from the satellite community to the wireless industry, it is essential to ensure that these decisions are based on solid technical analysis, correct statistical grounds and valid assumptions.

We applaud the efforts of broadcasters and programmers, and hope to continue to work together to ensure that satellite C-band continues to provide connectivity to bring information, education and entertainment to millions of radio listeners and TV viewers around the world.

There is still time before WRC-15 for better analysis, based on more accurate data. Intelsat, along with leading companies and trade associations in the satellite arena, is working to raise awareness around the world on the implications of this infringement by the wireless community on C-band frequencies. It is critical for broadcasters and programmers to make their voices heard. For more information on how you can get involved, visit this page or contact the author at the email address listed below

About the Author: Annette Purves is Principal, Regulatory Affairs for Intelsat. She can be reached at [email protected].

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