The Satellite Users Interference Reduction Group (SUIRG) is an important voice for the satellite industry in the C-band debate. The organization is dedicated to combating the increasing and costly problem of satellite radio frequency interference, a key issue if telecoms and satellite players are operating in the same frequency band. SUIRG CEO Bob Ames tells Via Satellite why satellite operators must keep C-Band spectrum.
Via Satellite: What is your take on the demands for C-band spectrum resources and the competing arguments of telecoms and satellite players? Ames
: Fixed satellite services (FSS) have been a major player in the telecommunications world for the past four decades, heavily relying on C-band spectrum for the distribution of lifeline connectivity and vital communications services across the world. An extensive hardware deployment representing billions of dollars worth of investment by satellite operators and users is in place today in support of FSS communications in C-band. Contrary to terrestrial systems, which can be modified post deployment to accommodate changes in the regulatory environment, satellites, once in orbit, cannot be altered. Thus, regulatory stability is essential for the survival and growth of the communications satellite industry.
The sizable upfront investment required to design, procure, launch and operate a satellite would be at great risk if portions of the used frequencies become unavailable for FSS after a satellite becomes operational. In this respect, identifying portions of the C-band for use by international mobile telecommunications (IMT) systems would create considerable instability in the regulatory environment for satellite communications. This could, in the long term, deter future investments in satellite communications as operators, fearful that spectrum will become unavailable during the lifetime of a new satellite, will be unable to successfully market new or even replacement inventory.
This harmful impact will be felt beyond just the satellite industry. The telecommunications industry as a whole, with its otherwise competing technologies such as fiber, cable and cellular, relies heavily on satellite communications for the distribution of services such as cellular backhaul, cable restoration, disaster recovery and cable headend.
On the other hand, IMT advanced and broadband wireless access (BWA) systems, including WiMax, are relatively new players. In fact, much of the spectrum previously identified for IMT-2000 systems is yet to be used in several countries. This begs the question: Is identifying additional spectrum for IMT advanced systems premature?
Nevertheless, if the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is to identify spectrum for future mobile phone networks that include IMT Advanced, 4G and others, spectrum other than the full standard C-band would be more appropriate for that purpose. Since systems located in the same area cannot use common or even adjacent frequencies, BWA and IMT operating in the C-band would significantly impact FSS operations. Identifying the C-band for BWA/IMT use would amount to substituting satellite technology with a non-equivalent technology that has a much lesser reach. Furthermore, buildout costs associated with coverage of distributed populations where cell sites are built based on distance rather than usage is substantially higher.
Expansion of the global ICT infrastructure would be best served when emerging services are implemented in a way to complement, rather than substitute or interfere with, existing satellite services. Use of the FSS C-band for WiMax/BWA services clearly does not achieve this goal, especially since WiMax devices transmit at a relatively high level, which causes LNA/B saturation and service interruption on nearby earth stations. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of available information on C-band earth station deployment since receive-only earth stations are usually not registered with telecommunication authorities.