GVF Rallies International Support for Protection of C-band from IMT

Via Satellite | January 7, 2015

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As the 2015 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15) draws nearer, the satellite industry is preparing again to defend its use of C-band spectrum. The International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) industry, which pushed for access to the lower portion of C band at WRC in 2007, has upped its demands for the entirety from 3.4 to 4.2 GHz this year.

Spectrum matters were not an original focus of the Global VSAT Forum (GVF) when it started, but in 2006 interference from wireless broadband systems operating in C band drew the organization. Now GVF is rallying support around the world for a “no-change” position to protect the satellite industry’s exclusive right to and effective use of C band. David Hartshorn, secretary general of GVF, told Via Satellite that the organization has been busy meeting with nations and regional groups as they prepare for WRC-15. In many places the initiative to preserve the band has found support. Hartshorn said a number of decision makers — especially end users — have stepped up to urge for protection of C band. In the South Pacific a group of island nations have pulled together a common regional position, and in Africa GVF has found a growing number of nations moving to confirm no-change positions. Hartshorn said many in the Middle East have given the no-change stance close consideration, and though there is no common regional position he anticipates more support will soon follow. The Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG) has asked GVF to provide information as they consider their position, and the UAE recently committed to no-change, he said.

Strong support has come particularly from industries and organizations that depend on C band to function. The World Broadcasting Unions International Satellite Operations Group (WBU-ISOG) for example, as well as the United Nations World Food Program, which deploys U.N. communications for disaster response, defended C band in 2007 and have continued to align with the satellite industry for WRC-15. NetHope, the World Meteorological Association, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and others have all supported no change.

“It’s not just the satellite industry against the wireless industry,” said Hartshorn. “It’s the satellite industry, and more importantly, all of those user groups who are deeply concerned at the prospects of losing access to C-band satellite services. Why do they care? Why not just migrate to Ku band or Ka band? Because those bands are not able to provide the same level of reliability — regardless of atmospheric effects — and they must have that 99.6+ level of reliability.”

Regionally Hartshorn said the least support has come from Europe and Northeast Asia. During WRC-07 more than 80 countries listed as “opt-in,” i.e. they could elect to permit IMT deployment in the lower portion of the C band if they desired. Hartshorn said a significant number of nations that have confirmed their intentions to allocate some portion of C band for IMT come from these regions. In many cases these countries have less high-density rainfall, thus meaning less reliance on C band compared to other geographies where inability to access the band would have a more inimical effect.

“In addition, most of the world’s major broadband wireless terminal manufacturers come from those regions,” he added. “It is to a large extent from those manufacturers that the impetus to go out and grab this spectrum is derived. What you have in effect is an initiative from the broadband wireless manufacturers in Europe and Northeast Asia in particular trying to impose on the user communities who depend on C band in different regions of the world where different environmental realities cry out for continued access to C band. There is a huge disservice being done in this process that is unjustifiable.”

Wireless broadband devices trying to operate within C-band have caused a large amount of interference since 2006 for the satellite industry around the world. Hartshorn said this underscores the importance of the issue for next year where it will be even more complex to try to manage interference. This is because the 2015 decision could also permit the deployment and use of mobile broadband wireless devices in C band. Whereas interference from fixed broadband wireless devices could typically be tracked to the source, creating an avenue for resolution, mobile interference would be much more difficult.

“No one was able to manage interference with fixed broadband wireless, and they hold out this hope, which is unsubstantiated, that interference is going to be managed with mobile ubiquitous devices? No way. It will wreck the band for all those user groups and others if the wireless industry’s plans are permitted to proceed,” said Hartshorn.

There is a growing body of research on C-band requirements and utilization. LS Telcom found that most regions of the world have only licensed about 70 percent of the spectrum already available. Based on this finding, LS Telcom Director of Spectrum Consulting Richard Womersley concluded that the IMT community’s demand for more spectrum is largely baseless.

“Not only has [the IMT community] not proven the need, but even with that which is available, they haven’t got all of it in use. Until you have all that in use I don’t see how you can really push for more,” he told Via Satellite three months ago.

Euroconsult has conducted studies as well on how C-band reallocation would impact Africa and the Asia Pacific. Both found critical reliance on the band for everything from national security to banking, disaster relief and aviation safety, leading the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) Executive Director Robert Bell to state that the Africa study “paints a grim picture of the impact on emerging economies in Africa from a change to current satellite spectrum allocations,” in a statement. In response to the Asia-Pacific study, CASBAA’s Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros, said “Asian governments need to sit up and take notice of the huge contribution by satellite C-band communications to their populations and their economies.”

GVF is preparing to present on the importance of C band in Abuja, Nigeria, to call for a united stance in Africa. A similar meeting is coming up in the Asia Pacific where GVF will also present, and Hartshorn highlighted a February gathering in Medellin, Colombia where nations from the Americas, and the Caribbean will gather again to consider an inter-American proposal. The organization is looking to continue gathering support around the world in defense of C band.

“We were reasonably successful in preventing a global identification in 2007 because people who were concerned with the issue stood up. If we are going to be successful in 2015, it is going to be for the same reason,” he said.