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Allowing the 12 GHz spectrum band to be used for 5G could yield as much as $1 trillion in economic benefits, according to a new report from the Brattle Group. The Brattle Group analysis draws on technical research conducted by RKF Engineering that showed that 5G service in the 12 GHz band could co-exist with direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite broadband services already operational in the band.

The Brattle Group and RKF Engineering reports were filed with the FCC last week by RS Access, one of several 12 GHz license holders that has been advocating for rule changes to enable 5G deployment in the band. RS Access currently uses the spectrum to offer fixed wireless in rural areas.

The 12 GHz band includes spectrum between 12.2 and 12.7 GHz. The requested rule changes would allow two-way communication in the band.

Among those backing the proposed rule changes is Dish, a key license holder that uses the spectrum for DBS services but wants to also use it for 5G.

License holders that oppose rule changes include AT&T, which uses the spectrum for DBS services, and SpaceX, which is deploying thousands of NGSO satellites to provide broadband service.

SpaceX was recently granted permission from the FCC to make certain changes to its earth-based equipment aimed at enhancing the performance of its broadband network, with a caveat: The FCC noted that permission could be revoked based on whether the commission opted to approve the pending rule change request for the 12 GHz band.

5G in 12 GHz Band

The RKF Engineering analysis suggests that the FCC doesn’t have to make an either-or decision on this issue. According to the RKF Engineering analysis, the FCC should be able to allow 5G operation in the 12 GHz band while also allowing SpaceX to continue with the tentatively approved earth-based equipment changes.

In that scenario, less than one percent of SpaceX Starlink user terminals would experience service interruption or degradation, according to the report, and any such issues could be resolved via “case-by-case site coordination or mitigation measures that operators routinely employ to mitigate the potential for interference in the ordinary course of business.”

The RKF analysis assumed 2.5 million Starlink terminals were deployed.

Interference between the NGSO and 5G networks would be minimal, in part, because Starlink will operate primarily in rural areas and 5G will be deployed more heavily in urban areas, the report notes.

In addition, Starlink terminals will use high elevation angles, while 5G base stations and user equipment operate at low elevation angles. Macrocells used for 12 GHz will use beamforming, which further focuses energy toward end users, the report notes.

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