FCC Must Promote Competition Between 5G & Satellite-based Internet Providers

As the United States government seeks to expand broadband access for Americans, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should allow competition between terrestrial 5G broadband and fixed-satellite internet providers. Currently, the FCC is reviewing its licensing rules of the 12 GHz spectrum — which has significant potential for improving America’s internet infrastructure. If the science suggests potential, the FCC should work with existing spectrum licensees to allow both 5G and satellite companies to share the 12 GHz band.

The Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan signals a renewed interest in expanding internet access. While subsidies for low-income Americans might increase broadband access in the short term, there is no alternative to competition for reducing subscription costs. To increase competition, the FCC needs to expand the available spectrum for 5G internet, which will allow greater competition between 5G broadband and fixed-satellite internet providers.

Despite great potential, the United States lags Japan, China, and South Korea in mid-band licensing and 5G deployment. That is why the FCC needs to expand the mid-band spectrum for 5G networks — which the Government Accountability Office views as a leading challenge to broadband deployment. Between 6 GHz and 24 GHz, the 500 MHz band  between 12.2 and 12.7 GHz is the only spectrum band available for terrestrial use. By allowing this band for 5G use, the FCC can expand the available mid-spectrum band for 5G use by more than a double.

Under the current FCC arrangement, several companies — including AT&T, Dish, RS Access, and SpaceX — share the 12.2-12.7 GHz spectrum. Currently, these companies use the spectrum for multiple purposes, including satellite broadband, video distribution through direct broadcast satellite (DBS), and terrestrial one-way fixed communication for data and video usage. However, outdated rules — namely power limits and a ban on two-way communications — prevent the existing licensees from using this spectrum to offer 5G internet. That is why DishRS Access, and several associations have urged the FCC to review these rules and allow existing licensees to offer two-way broadband services and 5G internet service using the 12 GHz band. 

Read the full article at Real Clear Policy.