Dish’s Charlie Ergen visits FCC to talk 5G buildout, 12 GHz band

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen, as well as Corporate Development EVP Tom Cullen and External and Legislative Affairs EVP Jeff Blum, met this week with FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and other FCC members in Washington, D.C.

As one can imagine, they had a lot to talk about: Dish’s 5G buildout status and the ongoing dispute with satellite companies, namely SpaceX/Starlink over the 12 GHz band. Dish also reiterated the benefits of raising the power levels in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel and members of her staff were not the only ones the Dish representatives met with on July 12. They also met with Commissioners Brendan Carr, Geoffrey Starks and Nathan Simington and members of their teams.

Dish announced on June 14 that it had met the government’s mandate of offering 5G broadband service to 20% of the U.S. population, having achieved that milestone through the deployment of a cloud-native, standalone (SA) 5G network. It’s building the network based on open Radio Access Network (RAN) specifications. The next big network deadline is June 14 of 2023, when Dish needs to cover 70% of the population.

One of the things that could help Dish on its mission to become a viable No. 4 wireless competitor in the U.S. is access to the 12 GHz band. The 12.2-12.7 GHz band represents 500 megahertz of spectrum that’s well-suited for two-way 5G services. Dish uses the 12 GHz band to provide service to satellite TV customers and believes it’s possible to share the band between direct broadcast satellite (DBS), non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) users and 5G.

One of its chief opponents, SpaceX, doesn’t want to share the band, however. SpaceX persuaded a lot of people – to the tune of 90,000 – to send messages to the FCC about how they rely on the band for Starlink internet. That, according to Dish and its cohorts in the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition, amounts to a “misinformation campaign” that is both scientifically and logically flawed.

“It bears repeating that the FCC has authorized 15,000 MHz of other spectrum for Starlink service – spectrum, by the way, Starlink did not pay a penny for,” wrote Blum in the July 14 ex parte filing. “The 12 GHz band represents just 3 percent of Starlink’s total spectrum authorization. And, when the FCC authorized Starlink’s use of the 12 GHz band, the grant was explicitly conditioned on the outcome of this very 5G rulemaking.”

Indeed, he pointed out, the FCC has expressly warned Starlink that if it deploys using the 12 GHz band, it “proceeds at its own risk” and that “any investments made toward operations … assume the risk that operations may be subject to additional conditions or requirements as a result of any future Commission actions.”

Earlier this week, OneWeb joined SpaceX in its opposition to 5G in the 12 GHz band, submitting its own technical study to show harmful interference would occur if 5G is allowed in the band. OneWeb VP of Spectrum Engineering and Strategy Kim Baum told Fierce that OneWeb was concerned that folks were losing focus on the importance of the 12 GHz band to OneWeb and its distribution partners.

Members of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition say they’re confident the FCC will decide in their favor after analyzing the entire record, noting how Rosenworcel has said the agency has the best engineers working on the 12 GHz proceeding