Dish wants to conduct FWA tests in 12 GHz band

Dish Wireless wants to conduct tests using the 12 GHz band to evaluate coexistence in the band – it’s just waiting for the FCC to say yea or nay.

They have a working 12 GHz radio that they want to use as part of the demonstration and they’re now waiting for the FCC to act on the request, according to Jeff Blum, EVP of External and Legislative Affairs at Dish.

Blum acknowledged the special temporary authorization (STA) application during a webinar Thursday with fellow members of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition.

Dish last month asked the FCC for permission to conduct experiments in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band. Through two separate requests pending at the FCC, Dish is asking to conduct 12 GHz tests in Littleton, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

As part of the tests, Dish said it wants to evaluate coexistence between Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) and fixed wireless access (FWA) internet access services using the same 12 GHz frequencies, with equipment in close proximity. The purpose is to test the performance of point-to-point FWA equipment under various scenarios; the radios would be using 802.11ac technology.

Dish wants to use the 12 GHz band for both mobile and fixed services. FWA is quicker to deploy because mobile 5G at 12 GHz will require 3GPP intervention, for one thing, and that will take time, as well as getting it into handsets that support it. But both are important competitive opportunities, according to Blum.  

Dish is leading the effort at the FCC to get the rules changed so that the 12 GHz band can be used for 5G; under current, decades-old rules, it’s not allowed. Dish was joined in Thursday’s webinar with representatives from RS Access, Public Knowledge, Incompass and the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, where they made the case for why the 12 GHz band is ideal for 5G.  

The 12.2-12.7 GHz band – not to be confused with the 12.7-13.25 GHz band that is on the FCC’s agenda for its October 27 meeting – is the subject of an FCC proceeding – one that SpaceX/Starlink argue should be shut down because they don’t want anyone messing with Starlink users that, they say, rely on the band. That was part of the impetus for the webinar – dispelling notions that the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition says are misleading.

Blum started his presentation addressing those very concerns. “We want to share this band. We don’t want to fight with Starlink or OneWeb or DirecTV,” he said, adding that Dish thinks sharing is possible in the band.

Dish, a satellite TV company that’s building a standalone 5G network across the U.S., is the primary user of this part of the 12 GHz band – with all of its satellite TV downlinks using it, he said. If Dish believed that its customers would be harmed by 5G use in 12 GHz, it wouldn’t be advocating for it, he said, adding that it’s rare for an incumbent to encourage sharing in a band, but that is exactly what Dish is doing.

SpaceX and Starlink have been submitting worst-case analysis and exaggerated claims about interference scenarios, he said. “They’re looking for the headline,” he said.  

Dish has spent over $30 billion for its spectrum, yet Starlink wants to use this spectrum for free – and it’s been encouraging the FCC to end the proceeding rather than study the potential for sharing. Starlink has another 15,000 or so megahertz of spectrum elsewhere that it’s authorized to use, and “we wish them well,” he said.

Blum said incumbent wireless carriers have over the years accumulated a lot of spectrum, and the 500 megahertz available in the 12 GHz band is ideal for 5G. “We want to disrupt,” he said.

Other uses – like Wi-Fi

Harold Feld, SVP at the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, steered the topic from 5G to Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7. Public Knowledge supports the use of 5G in the 12 GHz band – and they want Dish to succeed as a fourth carrier – but points out that there’s plenty of spectrum in the band to share with unlicensed users.

“The 12 GHz band is more important than just about 5G,” Feld said. “It’s a fundamental test case” for sharing across all different kinds of uses, including unlicensed and opportunistic sharing.

It’s the next natural evolution in the sharing model, according to Feld. The concept started about 15 years ago with TV white spaces. Then it moved to CBRS with a more dynamic allocation process and eventually to the 6 GHz band, which uses a spectrum access system that’s more sophisticated than what was used previously but not quite as complex as what they’re talking about for 12 GHz.

Asked about the timing of the FCC decision-making process and whether SpaceX and OneWeb have made enough noise to slow things down until the end of the year, Feld said when it comes to these kinds of spectrum decisions, the mass comments from the public are not terribly persuasive.

They’re important in other areas of policy, but it’s the FCC engineers’ job to “not screw up the service” the public likes so much, which is essentially what Starlink fans were saying when they inundated the FCC with comments.  

“We think that the engineering has been moving along,” he said. “We are hopeful that the FCC will be making a decision fairly soon.”