Charter, ACA to FCC: Cable needs C-band for satellite backhaul

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With the FCC looking for ways to use the so-called C-band spectrum for 5G wireless applications, the American Cable Association filed comments urging the agency to consider that C-band is already a vital tool for satellite backhaul used by smaller cable operators and other MVPDs.

With the FCC looking for ways to use the so-called C-band spectrum for 5G wireless applications, Charter Communications and the ACA filed comments urging the agency to consider that C-band is already a vital tool for satellite backhaul used by smaller cable operators and other MVPDs.

In its filing to the agency, Charter conceded that it is actively exploring the use of mid-band and high-band spectrum to deliver fixed and mobile wireless services to subscribers.

“As the commission formulates future policy for this spectrum, however, it should take appropriate steps to protect incumbent users,” Charter warned. “Charter, for instance, has more than 700 receive earth stations in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. These incumbent operations are crucial to Charter’s core video business. In addition, Charter maintains several Cable Television Relay Service (CARS) and microwave licenses in the 5.925-6.425 GHz and the 6.425-7.125 GHz bands (collectively, the ‘6 GHz band’). 

The American Cable Association also told the agency that the C-band remains very much in use by smaller cable operators, as well. 

“ACA offers these comments to underscore the critical importance of satellite operations in the C-band and dispel the myth that much of the C-band spectrum lies fallow, or is treated as a cushion to fall back on by the satellite operators,” ACA said in its comments. “There is nothing luxurious about the use of the C-band for the satellite backhaul of video to MVPDs, broadcast stations and other users.

“Virtually all MVPDs across the country, including hundreds of small and mid-sized cable operators, pick up that programming by means of thousands of receive-only earth stations, both registered and unregistered, and then deliver it to the more than 90 million MVPD households,” ACA added. “In fact, ACA demonstrates herein that the video programming carried by C-band satellites comprises an astonishing number of channels—almost 2,000—and takes 308 transponders on 24 satellites. With the upgrade of resolution quality to 4K, the demand for the C-band will soon handily exceed the satellite capacity available today.”

The FCC has solicited comments to explore what it calls the “potential opportunities for additional flexible access—particularly for wireless broadband services” to a number of frequency bands, including the 3.7-4.2 GHz and 5.925-6.425 GHz bands, also known as the C-band. 

Earlier today, satellite giant Intelsat announced that it’s partnering with Intel and is prepared to sell some of its allocated C-band spectrum for 5G use by wireless operators.

Intelsat and Intel have proposed that C-band be accessible to wireless operators to “help accelerate the introduction of 5G services, benefitting American consumers”.

“Facilitating access to mobile broadband spectrum is one of the great public policy challenges facing the FCC. C-band spectrum in 3,700-4,200 MHz, is currently used by satellite operators to enable all of the major broadcasters and media companies to deliver television content to millions of viewers across the United States,” Intelsat added in its statement. “It is also used for telecommunications infrastructure, certain governmental aeronautical applications and private data networks in the United States.”

Notably, in its filing, Charter revealed details of some of its wireless experiments, part of a plan to launch wireless consumer services next year. 

"Charter is using experimental licenses in various locations across the country, including Charlotte, North Carolina; Tampa, Florida; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Bakersfield, California, as a means to explore wireless broadband opportunities in various spectrum bands, including the 3.5 GHz band and millimeter wave bands," Charter said.  

“Working with its vendors, Charter is conducting 5G and 4G LTE trials in a broad array of communities within these location areas to better understand how to use both mid-band and high-band spectrum to provide its customers with advanced communications services,” the cable operator added. “These trials will inform Charter about the effectiveness of new wireless technologies in both indoor and outdoor settings, as well as explore Charter’s ability to employ its existing assets to support extensive wireless small cell network deployments.”