A proposal from carrier associations ACA Connects — America’s Communications Association and Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), along with Charter Communications calls for the FCC to conduct an auction of the majority of spectrum in the C-band. That band is currently used, in large part, by satellite providers to distribute video programming, but newer technology has made the video industry less reliant on the band, and current C-band license holders previously offered to conduct an auction of a portion of the C-band spectrum.
The ACA, CCA, Charter C-band proposal calls for the FCC to conduct the auction and for a larger portion of the band to be auctioned. According to a press release, the ACA, CCA, Charter proposal “marks the first time that incumbents and prospective new licensees have come together on an industry-designed plan for repurposing the C-band.”
ACA represents small video and broadband providers, many of whom get video feeds via satellite using C-band spectrum. CCA represents smaller, regional wireless carriers who may benefit through access to more spectrum.
ACA, CCA, Charter C-Band Proposal
The C-band includes a total of 500 MHz of spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz that could be well suited to supporting 5G service.
The four current C-band license holders that have proposed to conduct their own auction of C-band spectrum include satellite operators Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat. The operators propose to auction 200 MHz of the C-band, arguing that they could conduct this auction more quickly than if the FCC was responsible for an auction, thereby enabling spectrum to be freed up most quickly for 5G. The four companies have formed the C-Band Alliance to pursue their agenda and have offered to share a portion of the auction proceeds with the U.S. government.
The proposal from ACA, CCA and Charter would free up almost twice as much spectrum – 370 MHz in total – and calls for the FCC to conduct the auction. It doesn’t call for proceeds to be shared with current license holders, although it would provide funding and reimbursement to satellite operators for the costs of transitioning to a reduced amount of spectrum.
For video service providers, the ACA, CCA, Charter proposal would provide funding and reimbursement for “redundant, future-proof assets” that the providers would own and operate.
ACA, CCA and Charter say their proposal calls for spectrum to be cleared as quickly as the C-band Alliance proposal calls for in most areas and in half the time in urban areas. The coalition argues that the proposal would contribute to the goal of deploying fiber to rural areas – fiber that could also support high-speed broadband. The backers also say their proposal would create 100,000 direct jobs and as many as an additional 100,00 indirect jobs.
A spokesperson for the C-Band Alliance challenged the spectrum clearing timeline outlined in the new ACA, CCA, Charter proposal, which she said relies heavily on the buildout of new fiber. “This approach ignores that in order to create contiguous cleared spectrum — a requirement for 5G deployment — other non-cable satellite services must also be relocated,” the spokesperson said. “This is not possible without installing filters and launching new satellites to protect existing service and support the end state. This step alone would take 18 to 36 months. And, until all antennas in a city are transitioned to fiber or to the upper portion of the band, the spectrum is not cleared.”
The CBA proposal, she said, would enable nationwide 5G services in 18 to 36 months from the time of an FCC order. “We continue to believe that the CBA proposal is the fastest way to safely clear spectrum to enable nationwide 5G service deployment.”
Updated with a response from the C-band Alliance