5G for 12 GHz Coalition snaps back at Starlink ‘misinformation campaign’

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition, a group that includes Dish Network and RS Access, said today that it wants to set the record straight on Starlink’s “misinformation campaign.”

The most recent spat started a little over a week ago when SpaceX encouraged Starlink users to send messages to the FCC and lawmakers about the 12 GHz proceeding. More than 70,000 messages flooded the FCC’s public comment system in a matter of days, mostly from people who said they want to protect the Starlink satellite system from what they perceive as a bad plan by Dish to use the 12 GHz band for 5G.

The comments are tied to an online petition, hosted on votervoice.net, designed to send pre-written messages; it’s not clear how many are duplicative or if all the senders are actual Starlink customers. The Starlink internet service had over 400,000 customers around the world as of May.

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition for over a year now has been engaged in a fight with SpaceX over the viability of sharing the 12 GHz band with satellites and terrestrial 5G. The coalition argues that the engineering analysis shows sharing is possible while SpaceX disputes that.

“In addition to this manipulated filing, Starlink has initiated a public misinformation campaign by falsely telling customers and the public that coexistence is not possible in the band among Starlink and 5G services – despite nationwide data proving otherwise,” the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition said on Thursday. “This tactic, which is commonly used by Elon Musk, is not only disingenuous, but it promulgates an anti-5G narrative that is harmful to American consumers who deserve greater competition, connectivity options and innovation.”

The coalition explained that since the FCC initiated the 12 GHz proceeding 18 months ago, the coalition has worked with experts, including RKF Engineering Solutions, to submit technical analysis into the record.

“These studies demonstrate not only that coexistence is feasible in the band, with 99.85% of NGSOs experiencing no risk of harmful interference alongside 5G, but the substantial societal, economic and geopolitical benefits of unleashing more critical mid-band spectrum for two-way terrestrial services,” the coalition stated.

All for sharing the band 

RS Access holds about 15% of the MVDDS spectrum in the 12 GHz band. The company has backing from MSD Capital, a private investment firm managing the assets of Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell and his family.

“We’re not against Starlink,” V. Noah Campbell, CEO of RS Access, reiterated to Fierce on Thursday. “We are not against the service they want to provide. We’re advocating for sharing of the band.”

Dish controls the lion’s share of MVDDS licenses, covering 75% of the U.S. population.

“We don’t want to fight with Starlink,” echoed Jeff Blum, EVP, External and Legislative Affairs at Dish. “We want to share with Starlink.” But Starlink is the one that’s trying to sideline 500 MHz of critical mid-band spectrum that could be used for 5G at a time when U.S. leadership is essential, he said.

“They’re the ones who want to prevent mid-band spectrum from being used for 5G. We have spent a lot of time and resources” with pre-eminent wireless experts, including former FCC wireless and engineering bureau chiefs, to see if co-existence is possible, and the study that RKF did shows it's possible without harming Starlink users. 

The RKF study is the only independent, third-party analysis in the record, Blum said. “Starlink, with all their resources – they’ve had 18 months to hire a third-party expert to support their claims. They haven’t.”

Chip Pickering, CEO of Incompas, said his organization includes fiber, fixed wireless and rural operators that want to use both fixed wireless and fiber, and it’s among a diverse set of other 5G for 12 GHz coalition members.

“It’s not just Dish and RS Access against SpaceX,” Pickering said. “This is a broad-based industry of companies providing broadband across the country,” as well as consumer groups and associations that believe the 12 GHz band is critical to help close the digital divide and compete in the global 5G race with China.

It's the coalition’s contention that there’s enough spectrum in the 12 GHz band to accommodate all these uses, including Starlink.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said the agency has the best engineers working on the 12 GHz proceeding.

“Ultimately the commission, the FCC engineers have to determine the best use of this spectrum based upon the science, and we have confidence in their work,” Blum said. “I think what Starlink is trying to do through this misinformation campaign is unfortunate, trying to falsely scare consumers that their service is going to be shut down” when the record shows the opposite. “It comes down to the engineering.”