Intelsat and Intel reckon satellite spectrum could help with 5G's coming capacity crunch

Farmers can keep it, but cities' spectrum scarcity needs a fix

Intelsat and Intel reckon there's a chunk of spectrum currently devoted to satellite operations that could be useful for capacity-starved mobile comms.

The two (unrelated) outfits have submitted a joint proposal to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking that it consider clearing some C-band wavelengths to prepare for the advent of 5G services.

“Intelsat and Intel urge the Commission to allow co-primary terrestrial mobile operations in the 3700-4200 MHz band through commercial agreements between terrestrial mobile interests and primarily affected FSS satellite operators”, the submission [PDF] suggests.

In particular, the proposal focuses on terrestrial use of C-band frequencies allocated to downlinks, because in spite of the high value of that spectrum to satellite operations, those frequencies also have propagation characteristics that are valuable to mobile operators.

As with any spectrum that's already in use, the document recognises the sensitivities such a proposal would trigger – in fact, even in the joint submission, the companies say they haven't wrapped up their own wrangling over the implementation details.

However, they write, they'd far prefer to follow a market-based rather than a regulatory model (no, really?).

“The optimal way to enable terrestrial use in the 3700-4200 MHz band is — as Intelsat and Intel propose here — to create market-based incentives for FSS [fixed satellite service – El Reg] space station incumbents to undertake voluntarily the complicated and costly process of clearing portions of the C-band downlink spectrum in specific areas across the country, thus opening the way for coordinated terrestrial use as rapidly as possible”.

Satellite operators would work out places they can clear parts of the C-band, even if it means they have to relocate a ground station; and then would offer the spectrum to terrestrial operators.

While the incumbents would keep ownership of the spectrum they clear, they would then auction rights of use to mobile operators.

Telcos in big cities are a likely target, as satellite broadband is primarily deployed to provide services in rural/regional locations out of the reach of fixed broadband. Metro locations are also where 5G providers will face highest customer densities. ®

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