C-Band Alliance Unveils Plan to Clear 300 MHz of Spectrum

WASHINGTON—The C-Band Alliance has shared its idea for paving the way for 5G, providing the FCC with a plan that would free 300 MHz of C-band spectrum. However, the proposal is being criticized by ACA Connects as potentially burdensome and insufficient.

C-band spectrum is used by broadcast and satellite operators to help deliver network programming. That spectrum is being proposed as a way to assist with 5G wireless deployment, and the FCC is currently determining the most effective plan to do so.

This most recent proposal from the CBA, which was issued on the eve of a C-band hearing by Congress, commits to clearing 300 MHz of spectrum, including a 20 MHz guard band that would protect existing satellite services from 5G interference. In previous plans, CBA had proposed clearing 200 MHz for 5G. There is 500 MHz in total available as part of the C-band spectrum.

Also as part of the plan, CBA said that it would make 100 MHz available in the top 46 metropolitan areas within 18 months of the official FCC order and 280 MHz available all across the country within 36 months. The spectrum would be made available through a CBA-led private auction.

“The CBA remains committed to ensuring that existing customers continue to enjoy the quality of service they experience now, with no interference from 5G services deployed in the future,” reads the CBA’s press release detailing the proposal. “The CBA member companies will maintain continuity of all current C-band customer services and maintain the value of the continental U.S. C-band video distribution neighborhoods.”

ACA Connects, a trade organization representing smaller and medium-size providers of broadband, quickly came out against the CBA’s proposal.

“At the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute, CBS has finally come forward with the rough outlines of a proposal to clear 300 MHz of the C-band,” said ACA Connects President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. “It’s three-page submission affirms that CBA would rely on the use of video compression to cram all satellite operations into a mere 200 MHz.

“This would saddle rural operators and their customers with higher prices to use a less reliable C-band that is more prone to interference and is unable to meet future demand for high-definition video.”

ACA Connects’ own plan does consist of freeing up 300 MHz, but to do so by transitioning satellite delivery to fiber and repurposing the spectrum through an FCC-led auction. An auction would put money back into the U.S. Treasury to help fund things like rural broadband deployment.

“At any rate, the skeletal outline that CBA has provided is far from a sufficient basis for FCC action to reallocate a multibillion dollar spectrum asset,” Polka added. “Nor does the filing remedy core defects of the CBS plan, including the proposed reliance on an untested, legally unsound private sale of licensed spectrum.”

Polka also said that the proposal is too late to be incorporated into the FCC’s rules by the end of year.