FCC Seeks Further Information About Satellite Use of C-Band from FSS Space and Earth Station Operators

The FCC is requiring fixed-satellite service (“FSS”) operators to provide the Commission with information about their current use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band (“C-Band”) by May 28, 2019, according to a Public Notice released jointly earlier this month by the FCC’s International Bureau, Wireless Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology. The FCC will use the information to consider potential rules that allow new commercial terrestrial services in the Band while protecting incumbent satellite and earth station operators. The Band is currently allocated to FSS and the fixed service, but the Commission has proposed adding a mobile, except aeronautical mobile, allocation, which would allow commercial wireless providers to operate 5G services in the Band. The amount of spectrum to be reallocated or shared, the extent of protection for incumbents, and the means of protection for incumbents are all, as yet, undetermined, and they are topics of substantial debate among stakeholders.

Unless exempt, licensed and registered FSS earth station operators in the Band, including operators of temporary-fixed or transportable earth stations (those remaining at a location less than 6 months), must provide a signed certification, in a form prescribed in the Public Notice, of the accuracy of all information reflected on their licenses or registrations in the International Bureau Filing System (“IBFS”). Filers may seek confidential treatment. Earth station operators are exempt from this filing requirement if they filed for new or modified licenses or registrations between April 19 and October 31, 2018, using the processes set up by the FCC as an exception to the licensing freeze the FCC issued on April 19, 2018.

The Commission’s requirement that these pre-existing licenses or registered earth station operators will allow the FCC to update its information on those who did not license or register after the April 19, 2018, date. Approximately 15,000 took advantage of that earlier opportunity.

The foregoing exemption does not apply to temporary-fixed or transportable earth station operators.

Such operators that are licensed or registered must provide the FCC with the following information regardless of when they were licensed or registered:

  • Call sign (or IBFS file number if they filed a registration between April 19 and October 31, 2018, and the registration is pending);
  • Address where the equipment is typically stored;
  • Area within which the equipment is typically used;
  • How often the equipment is used and the duration of such use;
  • Number of transponders typically used in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band and extent of use on both the uplink and downlink; and
  • Licensee/registrant and POC information.
All earth station operators would benefit from being reminded that they must update their information in IBFS if there is a change in contact information or any of the station’s operational parameters.

The Commission also seeks information from satellite operators. Operators with existing FSS space station licenses or market entry grants that currently serve or are authorized to serve United States markets must provide the following information:

  • Satellite call sign, name, and orbital location;
  • Expected end-of-life for satellite;
  • Each C-band satellite planned for launch to serve the United States market, with the approximate date of the launch anda note on whether the satellite is a replacement, whether or not the there is a currently pending application in IBFS;
  • Center frequency and bandwidth of the Telemetry Tracking and Command (“TT&C”) beam(s); and
  • Call sign and geographic location (using NAD83 coordinates) of each TT&C receive site.
Additionally, for each transponder on each operational satellite serving United States customers using the C-Band, space station operators must provide the following:
  • The frequency range of the transponder and the transponder number for the most recent month;
  • The total capacity (megahertz) and in terms of the number of megahertz on each transponder that are currently under contract for the most recent month and for one month in 2016;
  • For each day in March 2019, the average percentage of each transponder’s capacity (megahertz) utilized and the maximum percentage of capacity utilized on that day (parties may supplement this required daily data with historical trend data over recent months up to three years to show utilization variances, but they must also provide the date range for which the data was collected); and
  • For all data reported regarding capacity under contract and capacity utilization, the percentage, if any, for customers outside of the United States for the most recent month.
The Commission originally adopted the information collection requirements in a July 2018 Order, but the effectiveness of the requirements were suspended pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which was granted on January 28, 2019.

As issues continue to play out in the FCC’s 3.7-4.2 GHz proceeding, how the Commission ultimately proposes to protect existing licensed and registered Earth stations and related satellites will be closely watched and lobbied intensely.