Intelsat, Intel propose 5G use of C-band spectrum

Satellite operator Intelsat and technology company Intel have teamed up to submit a proposal to the FCC that allows the use of C-band spectrum (3700-4200 MHz) for 5G mobile technology.

According to a SpaceNews report, the proposal would allow satellite operators to collaborate with terrestrial networks on ways to clear swaths of C-band  based on 5G needs and the presence of existing fixed satellite service (FSS) systems. Satellite operators would retain ownership of the spectrum, and auction the right for joint use of frequencies with terrestrial companies in cleared areas.

Several companies expressed their opinion on this initiative. SES spokesperson Markus Payer told SpaceNews that they are “analyzing carefully the proposals from the Intel/Intelsat consortium and others and need to understand the details, implications and consequences of these plans”. In turn, Eutelsat chief executive Rodolphe Belmer said “there are potentially positive and negative consequences. We reserve judgement until we fully understand them.”

However, Tom Choi, CEO of ABS, went further and called the announcement “ludicrous and ridiculous,” according to Via Satellite. Choi believes that C-band or any other spectrum used in Geostationary Earth Orbits (GEO) does not belong to any satellite operator but rather by countries/administrations that are registered with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). In this sense, the executive said that “Intelsat does not own any C-band spectrum rights either in GEO or for use in terrestrial.” In addition, “the ITU Radio Regulations does not allow individual countries to assign satellite C-band spectrum for use terrestrially by any individual country. If the FCC agrees with this they would be setting a dangerous precedent and all other countries would follow suit.”

Andrew Jordan, CEO of AsiaSat, told Via Satellite: “On face value, this was a unilateral decision by Intelsat, without prior consultation with other satellite operators, and is very divisive”. According to the executive, “LTE and satellite cannot coexist in the 3700-4200 MHz band” and this “incompatibility of LTE/WiMax with satellite applications has been demonstrated through numerous ITU studies”. “I’m also surprised because my understanding is that the frequencies do not belong to any individual operator or administrations, but rather a global resource administered by notifying authorities through the ITU,” Jordan added.