SpaceX warns 5G plan would deny Starlink to most Americans

TAMPA, Florida — SpaceX warned on June 21 that its Starlink broadband network would become unusable for most Americans if a proposal to use the 12GHz band for terrestrial 5G passes.

US satellite broadcaster Dish Network is seeking permission to operate a high-powered mobile service in the 12 GHz band, which is part of the Ku-band spectrum that Starlink, OneWeb and other satellite operators use to connect to terminals of users.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, SpaceX said tests conducted in Las Vegas show how the proposed network would cause Starlink users to “experience harmful interference” more than 77% of the time.

Starlink would be “subject to total service interruption 74% of the time,” wrote David Goldman, SpaceX’s senior director of satellite policy.

“This analysis verifies what should be intuitive – that a high-powered terrestrial network would blow anyone using the high-sensitivity equipment that satellite consumers must use to receive signals that comply with the Commission and international power restrictions on transmissions. satellite downlink,” he said.

“As a result, far fewer Americans would be able to connect using next-generation satellite services, and those who remain would experience service degradation and regular network outages.”

He said SpaceX’s analysis highlights inaccuracies and “blatant assumptions” in previous interference studies commissioned by RS Access, a holding company that, like Dish Network, has licenses in the 12GHz band that it wants to upgrade to a 5G network in the United States. .

A study for RS Access estimated a nationwide 5G network would cause interference on less than 1% of the terminals used by non-geostationary satellite operators, as well as detailed solutions that would mitigate the impact.

However, Goldman said this analysis is “unrelated to reality” and does not address factors including how satellite operators share their spectrum through coordination arrangements.

“Actually, SpaceX recently announced that has reached a coordination agreement with OneWeb, but historic achievements like this require the flexibility that only comes with full access to this shared bandwidth,” he wrote in the letter to the FCC.

He said RS Access’ analysis also assumes that its terrestrial network would only cover dense urban areas and that it would be geographically separated from satellite operators that would remain in almost entirely rural areas.

This would require Starlink to essentially forego “often unattended or underserved users” in these urban areas.

According to the SpaceX study, harmful interference from a high-powered mobile service in the 12 GHz band would extend more than 13 miles from the macro base station in unobstructed conditions.

SpaceX urged the FCC to reject the Dish Network’s 12 GHz proposal and to investigate whether previous technical studies submitted to the regulator were intentionally misleading.

Dish Network spokeswoman Meredith Diers said the company’s “expert engineers are evaluating SpaceX’s claims in the filing.” RS Access did not respond to a request for comment.

The letter is the latest exchange in a bitter regulatory dispute between SpaceX and Dish Network that has been brewing in FCC filings for years.

In a June 13 letter to the FCC, Dish Network adviser Pantelis Michalopoulos asked the regulator to force SpaceX to disable Starlink customers who have installed antennas on boats and moving cars because the company is not yet allowed to operate. mobility services.

Goldman told the FCC in SpaceX’s June 21 letter that Dish Network’s regulatory “attacks” have “delayed new services, such as mobile connectivity, which are sorely needed by unserved Americans.”

Dish Network has accumulated frequencies in other spectrum bands for its 5G plans. The company said on June 15 that 5G commercially launched services in more than 100 cities across the United States, covering approximately 20% of the US population.

Most of Starlink’s current availability in the United States is concentrated west of the Mississippi River and is not limited to cities, according to your availability map. The remaining areas should be available by 2023 to new users, once SpaceX adds more satellites to the Starlink constellation to increase capacity.

The final paragraph of this article was edited June 21 to correct a description of Starlink’s availability map, which shows where the service is available rather than where it has coverage.

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