While Not Perfect, Compromise May Be Best Option On C-band

By | September 1, 2007 | Editor's Note, Telecom

Satellite players and terrestrial interests have drawn sharp lines in their debate over the access to C-band spectrum, but there are some areas where the two sides have reached at least some level of agreement.

At issue is the desire by major terrestrial players to have access to a portion of the C-band spectrum that has been preserved for the satellite industry for decades. The terrestrial players want the bandwidth to provide new services such as wireless broadband.

Both communications providers believe that access to the bandwidth is essential to their future revenue generation and will help them provide essential services to customers around the globe. Both sides also agree that using even part of the spectrum for high-powered terrestrial services will create interference issues for the lower-powered satellite-based services.

But the agreement ends there.

The terrestrial providers believe there are options that would alleviate the interference problems and allow both types of service providers to share the spectrum.

“The WiMax Forum believes that both services have a role to play in countries where traditional and reliable wired telecommunications services are not in widespread use,” an official says. “The band in question is already allocated to both terrestrial and satellite services on an international basis and it is for national administrations to determine the extent to which all types of service are used with appropriate regulatory procedures in place and adherence to international coordination procedures for coexistence with services in neighboring countries.”

The WiMax Forum and the Global VSAT Forum, one of the organizations leading the satellite industry’s efforts to retain exclusive use of the spectrum, have discussed potential coexistence, but David Hartshorn, secretary general of the Global VSAT Forum, had not reached the same conclusion as his WiMax counterparts.

“Studies have shown that you can’t really coexist in the same geographic areas using the same frequencies,” and Hartshorn is adamant that “terrestrial-wireless interests need to pursue spectrum other than C-band.”

The problem is that the terrestrial wireless players seem to be quite firm in their desire to have access to part of the C-band spectrum, and their collective financial muscle has helped make an effective case with many international and government regulators.

While the satellite players have done well to raise their concerns, it may not be wise to phrase the debate as a win-at-all-cost proposition focusing on maintaining a status quo. Instead, it may be time for the satellite industry focus more on how to work with the terrestrial providers.

Such a tactic could even prove to be more financially beneficial in the long run, says Christopher Baugh, president of research and consulting firm NSR. He sees WiMax as more of an opportunity for satellite players than a threat. “Satellite-WiMax ‘inter-working’ will produce a variety of distinct opportunities, highly dependant on the frequency band in use and regional competitive considerations,” he says.

It is highly unlikely that the International Telecommunication Union will make any decisions that create a clear-cut winner or loser, and it is time for the satellite industry to prepare for a future where they have to work more closely with terrestrial wireless players to keep everyone’s customers happy and keep revenues flowing.

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