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Why SpaceX is afraid for its satellite Internet access service

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Elon Musk’s company is furiously fighting the project to partially exploit the 12 GHz frequency band for 5G. This would call into question the very existence of his service, according to her.

“Very sleazy and immoral”, this is how Elon Muk described on Twitter the plan to share the 12 GHz frequency band between 5G and constellations of low-orbit satellites in the United States. He fights with rage this idea proposed by the companies Dish Network and RS Access and defended by the coalition “5Gfor12GHz” which has more than thirty members.

This little war is being waged as part of a consultation launched by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission, the American telecom policeman) on how this frequency could be better used. The United States has the particularity of having already allocated spectrum in this band to the MVDDS (Multichannel Video and Data Distribution Service). It is a wireless terrestrial television and internet broadcasting technology that planned to serve poorly connected and rural areas. But it was ultimately not used.

Dish Network itself already uses 12 GHz for satellite TV broadcasting. But this segment is slowly declining. This is the reason why it has rolled out its own 5G mobile network. And he would like to modify his MVDDS license authorization to enrich his mobile network with this band. He has been campaigning to move this issue forward for several years. As for RS Access, which is owned by Michael Dell, the company was founded in 2018 to acquire spectrum in the 12 GHz band in the United States and also operate it under an MVDDS license.

Interferences and major breakdowns

If the CEO of SpaceX reacts so violently to this project, it is because the very existence of its Starlink satellite Internet access service would be threatened. He has just tabled an analysis this week dismantling all the arguments of his opponents. Its study claims that 5G mobile service would create interference with Starlink terminals more than 77% of the time and complete outages 74% of the time.

“It is difficult to imagine sharing between base stations and 5G terminals in an environment where dishes can be on roofs and balconies”told us Eric Fournier, director of spectrum planning and international relations at ANFR.

Starlink doesn’t want to hear about any other frequency band either, as 12 GHz would be required to provide downlinks throughout the United States. The company also points out that Dish Network has not used its licenses in the 700 MHz, AWS-4, AWS H Block, AWS-3 and 600 MHz bands in time. It would therefore be risky, according to him, to provide him with more and to block spectrum without being certain that he is using it. However, SpaceX had been warned by the FCC that the 12 GHz could be subject to modification. He would therefore have developed his model in the United States around this band at his own risk.

SpaceX is not alone in opposing the coalition. Operator AT&T fears repercussions for its own satellite television service. Operators Intelsat, OneWeb and SES are also against it. Starlink partners Google and Microsoft have filed negative notices with the FCC.

A priori, France is not concerned by this debate for the moment. But the ANFR told us that new frequencies should be identified next year to supply the future 6G expected for 2030. “6G manufacturers want to target bands below 15 GHz”Eric Fournier told us again.

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