The C-Band Alliance of satellite operators has five wireless carrier co-signers for its latest proposal for an auction of C-band spectrum. In the proposal, the alliance offers to clear 300 MHz of spectrum for the auction, an increase from the 200 MHz that the alliance previously proposed.

The five carriers signing on to the proposal include two of the four national wireless carriers – AT&T and Verizon – as well as three smaller carriers. The three smaller carriers are Bluegrass Cellular, Pine Belt Wireless and U.S. Cellular. 

The C-Band Alliance is comprised of satellite operators that hold licenses for spectrum in the C-band between 3700 and 4200 MHz that is used largely for distribution of video content. The alliance has offered to auction a portion of that spectrum and share the proceeds with the federal government. The alliance has argued that it could conduct the auction more quickly than the FCC could, thereby enabling the spectrum to be repurposed more quickly for terrestrial mobile use, including 5G.

The C-band spectrum is considered mid-band spectrum, a band that has received great interest in recent months, as some stakeholders argue that it can support the optimum mixture of coverage and speeds for 5G. 

C-Band Alliance opponents argue that the FCC should conduct the auction. 

C-Band Alliance Auction Proposal
As the C-Band Alliance explains in a press release, the proposal to free up 300 MHz of spectrum is made possible by technology advances.

In the proposal, the alliance offers to cover the costs of moving its customers to the new technology, which will operate in a portion of the band that will be retained by alliance members. In addition, the alliance offers to clear 120 MHz of spectrum in 46 top metropolitan zones within 18 months of an FCC order, with the remaining spectrum to be made available within 36 months from a CBA-led auction.

The alliance’s auction proposal calls for a 20-MHz guard band and for the remaining 280 MHz of spectrum to be divided into 20-MHz blocks based on partial economic areas (PEAs). The PEA approach, which divides the U.S. into about 400 license areas, has been used in other spectrum auctions.

The new CBA proposal already has garnered opponents, including ACA Connects, an industry association that represents smaller video providers that use satellite for content transmission. In a statement, ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said the remaining 200 MHz of spectrum that the satellite operators would retain wouldn’t be sufficient to meet future demand for high-definition video.

Polka also argued that “the skeletal outline that CBA has provided is far from a sufficient basis for FCC action to reallocate a multi-billion dollar spectrum asset.”

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