The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

Repacking the C-Band

Sitting just a few feet from FCC Chairman Pai at NAB recently I came away thinking that he is not anti-broadcast…Then I learned his position regarding C-Band (3.7-4.2 Gig) Called Mid-Band by the wireless industry. Once again we are in a defensive position in terms of spectrum. The wireless industry is not dumb – They want additional spectrum and they consider any of that is not heavily used fair-game…On the surface, apparently, our C-Band qualified.

Remember the battle over the 2 Gig spectrum when the wireless industry set its sights on that band? Broadcasters were scrambling to show the FCC that we did indeed use the spectrum a lot more than they thought. The issue was the lack of information regarding the number and location of receivers. Frankly, we were caught short on this one…As a result we experienced our first dose of ‘repacking’…(even if it was not called that). In the end, we lost spectrum.

Then it was deemed that Broadcasters were never going to use all the TV spectrum they were allocated….and, on top of that, the FCC had done a poor job of spectrum management with the switch from analog to digital and the case was made to ‘re-pack’ TV….One more time, we lost ground.

Now the wireless ‘cross-hairs’ are on C-Band. This spectrum has been used for a very long time for program/network distribution and, in the minds of many, is un-utilized…..”Wireless Speak’ for ‘We want it’. Much like the 2-Gig issue, broadcasters have laid back thinking that the FCC was never going to let anyone else use this band…Nothing to fear. All it took is for the Wireless crowd to assert that the band was under-utilized and contend that, at least, it could be shared by them. IMHO, much of the blame here rests with Broadcasters, in particular Radio Stations, that have sprinkled satellite receiving antennas all over the land and not bothered to have any formal data documenting all this use. This ‘under-counting’ is proving to be dangerous. Now, all of a sudden there is this scramble to try and make a case that this is not a suitable location for shared use. Whether or not we will be successful at beating back this threat remains to be seen.

History has shown that, when confronted with this kind of a situation, that we may well be looking for a loss of spectrum in exchange for a smaller piece of the pie with some protection. Several organizations are involved in this battle – NAB, NPR, iHeartMedia, program distributors, networks etc.

Has this has put the FCC in a position that, perhaps, they did not see coming?

On the Wireless side – they are making it clear that they need the spectrum, and this particular piece is ideal for their new 5G systems. Seems to me that this pits the desire of new ‘Gee-Whiz’ wireless toys up against old fashioned systems that are frequency hogs anyway. Let’s face it – 5G is being pre-sold as the do-all, end-all, wireless system that’s likely exciting to the policy makers while Broadcasting is being pushed to the rear of the bus as old technology.

We were being told that the FCC would be voting in July on the proposal….Then we got word that the filing deadline had been extended to October 17. As a lot of media coverage has pointed out. Our C-Band systems impact a huge amount of Radio and TV operations. A lot of fingers are crossed – My Guess – Standby for more re-packing. See GN Docket Nos. 18-122.

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