The C-Band Alliance (CBA) and its efforts to accelerate availability of mid‐band spectrum for 5G services in the United States has been a key discussion point in the industry over the past few weeks. But what does this mean for major SATCOM players?
Spectrum is often considered as the core essence of wireless communications, but not all bands within the spectrum have the same value. Spectrum in the lower band with frequencies of 1 GHz and below is a significant work-horse of mobile communications and delivers wide coverage areas with fairly little power. However, with only a set amount to go around, capacity is limited. While there is fresh excitement around the use of high-band spectrum above 24 GHz, the physics of these enormously high frequencies lead to restricted propagation supported by costly infrastructure.
On the other hand, mid-band spectrum is regarded as the goldilocks of frequencies as it is not too low or too high. Portions of this spectrum will be vital for next-generation networks, and most nations in 2019 are moving full-steam ahead to allot mid-band spectrum for LTE/5G services.
The C-band Alliance was formed by four major satellite operators that deliver the majority of C-band satellite services in the US. This alliance proposed a breakthrough market-based proposal to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to clear portions of the C-band to sustain rollout of 5G services. This alliance also protects the existing vital satellite-delivered services supported by C-band.
In the US, the FCC is proceeding in several ways like:
- Making amendments to 3.5 GHz CBRS licenses
- Suggesting approaches to transition C-Band usage from satellite to terrestrial
- Making room for unlicensed services in the 6 GHz band
- Re-examining the upper section of the 5 GHz band
It is imperative for organizations involved in satcom, telecommunications and wireless solutions to chart the developments and decisions of the mid-band spectrum policy. The essential question of ‘how to successfully transition a portion of the C-band spectrum from just satellite distribution or television programming videos to wireless broadband’ is key. Once the allocation is complete, it will unleash meaningful economic growth since 5G services will be available to consumers throughout the country in metropolitans and non-urban areas. The CBA will protect the reliability and quality of satellite services in the C-band to media, data companies and broadcasters. Satellite operators in the CBA will clear frequencies to permit terrestrial mobile operators to access C-band, speeding the 5G deployment – while at the same time protecting established satellite services and the customers that depend on them. This breakthrough solution will make up to 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum available within 18 – 36 months after FCC adoption.
Ultimately, a spectrum auction will be successfully concluded. Before 5G is rolled out, satellite operators, broadcasters, regulators, wireless operators, spectrum holders, media houses and everyone operating in this band will need specialized products like C-Band LNB’s, filters etc. to block or prevent interference from the new 5G base stations to carry out operations smoothly. Hence, many mid-spectrum players will need to set aside resources for infrastructure and components to adapt and stay ahead of the game. There will also need to be telemetry equipment upgrades of transmitters, ground software, antennas and receivers within the next year. Organizations that do not act quickly to safeguard their satellite equipment could be drastically affected due to reduced C-band operational availability by increased frequency crowding. Norsat’s R&D team has already been working on a solution and will be launching soon at CABSAT 2019.
For rural consumers to be truly reached, and existing C-Band customers to stay protected, the CBA proposes launching eight new satellites. This will enable them to operate with the same capacity to carry video and data services. The only difference being – what they do currently in 500 MHz, will have to take place within just 300 MHz. The new satellites would be funded from the amount the CBA members receive through transferring 200 MHz of C-Band to cellular companies. 180 MHz will be usable plus 20 MHz will be a guard band. The C-band plan suggests 5G network operators need to cover the cost of customer migration and new infrastructure for affected satellite operators.
There has been suggestions to use frequencies such as Ku- and Ka-band to replace C-band, but the satellite industry disagrees. The main characteristics of C-band, such as its durable signal strength and wide reach, truly make it irreplaceable. Norsat will be sharing new updates as the transition proceeds. Stay tuned to learn more about the C-band alliance and our 5G Interference solutions by visiting https://norsat.com/5g-interference