SpaceX Warns That 5G Plan Would Deny Most Americans Starlink

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

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

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.

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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 international and Commission power restrictions. .

“As a result, far fewer Americans could be connected using next-generation satellite services, and those who remained would experience degraded service and regular network outages.”

He said SpaceX’s analysis highlights inaccuracies and “glaring assumptions” in previous interference studies commissioned by RS Access, a holding company that, like Dish Network, has licenses in the 12 GHz band that “it wants to upgrade to a 5G network in 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 “unrealistic” and does not take into account factors such as how satellite operators share their spectrum through coordination agreements.

“Actually, SpaceX recently announced which has entered into 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 would be geographically separated from satellite operators that would remain in almost entirely rural areas.

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

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

SpaceX urged the FCC to reject Dish Network’s 12GHz proposal and 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 raging in the FCC files for years.

In a June 13 letter to the FCC, Dish Network attorney 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 authorized to operate. mobility services.

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

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

Most of Starlink’s current coverage in the United States is concentrated west of the Mississippi River and is not limited to cities, according to your availability cardthe remaining areas to come into operation in 2023.

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