SpaceX accuses MVDDS operators of 12 GHz band ‘take-over’ attempt

In the ongoing battle over the 12 GHz band, SpaceX is accusing RS Access of trying to stifle Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) consumers’ ability to use the 12 GHz band, so that Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) operators can get mobile rights.

“We should lay to rest the notion that MVDDS operators propose anything other than a take-over of the 12 GHz band at the expense of NGSO FSS operators,” SpaceX told the commission in its July 10 filing (PDF).

V. Noah Campbell, founder of RS Access, said that’s not the case. “We’re not trying to take over the band,” he told Fierce. “We never opposed their current authorization. What we’re opposed to is their modification.”  

SpaceX has submitted an application to the FCC’s International Bureau to allow it to relocate 2,824 satellites previously authorized to operate at altitudes from 1,110 km to 1,330 km down to altitudes ranging from 540 km to 570 km. A number of stakeholders, including Amazon, AT&T’s DirecTV and ViaSat have urged the commission to deny SpaceX’s proposed modification, the third in about 18 months.

RS Access has been pressing the FCC to launch a Notice of Proposal Rulemaking (NPRM) that would open up the band for public comment, where interested parties can advocate their positions and the FCC can decide the best and highest use for the spectrum. That idea has the backing of a number of groups, including the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), INCOMPAS, Public Knowledge and Open Technology Institute at New America.

“We’re asking the FCC to simply use the notice and comment system for the public and interested parties to evaluate how the spectrum can help meet America's 5G priorities” Campbell said. 

RS Access holds about 15% of the MVDDS spectrum in the 12 GHz band, while Dish Network controls the lion’s share, with licenses covering 75% of the U.S. population. RS Access has backing from MSD Capital, a private investment firm managing the assets of Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell and his family.

Critics of SpaceX point out that the 12 GHz band represents only about 3% of its total 15,000+ megahertz of spectrum, and it’s been on notice not to rely on the 12 GHz band since well before launching any satellites. For its part, SpaceX insists that it has demonstrated that its system will continue to comply with all rules imposed to safeguard MVDDS systems.

The 12 GHz band hasn’t yet landed on the FCC’s meeting agenda, but Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly has said he thinks it’s worthwhile to take a closer look at the band. During an appearance before the New Jersey & New York Wireless Associations earlier this month, he said the 3.1 to 3.55 GHz band is at the top of his list in terms of which bands to tee up. However, after that, “it is not unreasonable to have further dialogue with applicable and interested parties on the much debated 12 GHz band. It would certainly seem appropriate to explore the relevant issues here,” he said.

RELATED: Dish presses FCC to reject SpaceX plan for 12 GHz band

Representatives from Dish Network met with FCC staff last week to discuss their concerns about SpaceX’s failure to provide any “meaningful assurance” that its proposal to dramatically reduce the altitude of 2,824 satellites will not disrupt direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services, according to a July 14 filing (PDF) by Dish.

“Even with the little information SpaceX has made publicly available, 12 GHz band licensees like DISH have presented significant evidence that SpaceX’s proposed modifications could imperil DBS transmissions in the 12 GHz band,” Dish wrote, adding that others have raised similar concerns regarding MVDDS and potential 5G operations in the band. “Yet SpaceX continues to stonewall interested stakeholders and refuses to provide the technical analysis and information requested to date. The Commission should require more information from SpaceX or dismiss the company’s modification application as deficient.”

Article updated to clarify RS Access' stand on SpaceX's current authorization.