SpaceX says 5G interference could make Starlink ‘unusable’

A photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off.

(Long exposure was used to create this image) A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A on May 6, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Photograph: Red Huber (Getty Images)


Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet company is on a collision course with 5G. That’s what SpaceX wants you to think, anyway.

In a new spicy analysis launched this week, SpaceX, which owns and operates the Starlink satellite network, says TV provider Dish’s attempts opening up the 12GHz spectrum for use by Dish’s satellite and 5G mobile network would cause interference that would, in effect, render Starlink’s product “unusable”. SpaceX’s Starlink satellites currently rely on the coveted 12 GHz band to provide downlink services in the United States.

In its review, SpaceX claims that some “harmful interference to land mobile service” (i.e. Dish’s 5G network) in the 12.2-12.7 GBHz spectrum band would occur approximately 77% of the time. The company says that interference can lead to complete Starlink outages 74% of the time. From SpaceX’s perspective, Dish’s lobbying efforts pose an existential risk to Starlink’s business in certain markets. The plan, on the other hand, has previously said that opening up 12GHz to 5G represents a “win-win” for all parties involved.

“We want coexistence,” Jeff Blum, Dish’s executive vice president of foreign affairs and legislation, told Fierce Wireless last year. “We believe that coexistence is possible. We want to protect our own satellite service.

For those who have lost their way, SpaceX has spear around 2,700 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit and has more than 400,000 subscribers worldwide, launching its internet service for the first time in October 2020. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he expects increase the number of satellites in space up to 42,000 in the coming decades, with the ultimate goal of helping to bring online about one third of the world’s population still does not have access to the Internet. For now, however, SpaceX is mainly bringing frustratingly unreliable Internet for Rural Americans. Musk’s company says Dish’s efforts to bring 5G to the 12GHz band could derail those plans.

Dish said the company’s “expert engineers” are currently evaluating SpaceX’s claims. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the use of wireless spectrum, did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment. SpaceX did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

The company’s passionate reviews come in response to a separate earlier report from wireless internet provider RS ​​Access, which SpaceX said included several “blatant errors” and “erroneous assumptions” that painted a picture of less severe mobile interference. SpaceX says it conducted its own analysis using the same methodology as this study, “but using assumptions that reflect reality and correcting several of the more egregious errors.”

“Even with these very favorable assumptions, the analysis clearly demonstrates that the introduction of mobile service in the 12 GHz band would interfere with services already assigned and operating in the band and would disrupt next-generation satellite service to Americans across the country,” SpaceX write in your review.

SpaceX took its beef with Dish to the FCC. On a Letter discovered by CNBC, SpaceX asked the agency to “investigate whether Dish and RS Access have submitted intentionally misleading reports.”

“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 meet international power and commission restrictions. said the director. of Satellite Policy on David Goldman wrote. “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.”

Starlink has only had satellites floating around in space for about three years,1 but it has already earned a reputation for provoking conflicts with ISPs. Last year, a set of rural broadband providers joined the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association interrogates whether or not Starlink was eligible to receive federal funds from the FCC. These companies doubted that SpaceX could actually achieve the advertised speeds and performance.

Anyone following the adventures of rocket man are now probably justified in accepting any complaints associated with performance or delays with a grain, or perhaps a whole shaker, of salt. However, while some passionate commentators breathless lauded Starlinks as the death knell for traditional telecommunications, Musk, for now, has adopted a surprisingly more reserved tone, opting instead to to say Starlink can provide an “add-on” to terrestrial 5G and fiber.

On the question of potential interference from 5G, it’s hard to say from the outside whether SpaceX’s or Dish’s analyzes are closer to reality. If Musk is recent argument with the Twitter graph and the SEC being a guide, it’s clear that the richest man in the world is more than willing to drag complaints and yell at anyone who will listen.

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