L’AQUILA, Italy — The same terrestrial wireless broadband interests that covet C-band spectrum now occupied by satellite systems are eyeing Ka-band for next-generation cellular networks, satellite industry officials said Dec. 5.
These officials said that while C-band remains the most urgent of their concerns in the run-up to a meeting of global frequency and orbital-slot regulators in 2015, the threat to Ka-band is already on the horizon.
“There is now a push by major players, including Samsung and other equipment manufacturers, for access to spectrum in the 20/30 gigahertz range, which they would like for 5G terrestrial mobile systems,” said Kumar Singarajah, director of regulatory affairs and business development at Avanti Communications of London. “We have to stay focused on this.”
Avanti’s Hylas satellites are using Ka-band frequencies for broadband, cellular signal backhaul and other applications in more than 50 nations, including much of Africa.
Deployment of Ka-band satellites is proceeding quickly. Northern Sky Research (NSR), a telecommunications consultancy, counts 17 high-throughput satellites, most of them using Ka-band, already in orbit, with another 30 satellites scheduled for launch by 2022.
Revenue from these broadband satellites, which is expected to be less than $500 million in 2013, will surpass $3 billion within 10 years, NSR President Christopher Baugh said in a Dec. 5 presentation here to the High-Throughput Satellites London Roundtable, organized by the Global VSAT Forum, an industry advocacy group.
Paris-based Euroconsult has arrived at a similar conclusion, forecasting that 33 high-throughput satellites, most in Ka-band, will be launched in the next three years alone, compared with 31 launched over the past 10 years. Ka-band satellites will be producing an annual revenue of $5.6 billion by 2022.
Some of these satellites will provide services to terrestrial cellular networks including the backhauling of signals from remote cell towers to the telecommunications grid, and handling excess traffic that cannot be digested by the terrestrial network.
These services notwithstanding, the terrestrial wireless broadband industry, which clashed head-on with the satellite sector in 2007 over the use of C-band, is gearing up for a new battle at the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015. The conference, which occurs every three or four years, is organized by the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations affiliate.
David Hartshorn, executive secretary of the Global VSAT Forum, said his organization is already seeing initial moves to force Ka-band frequencies that now are reserved for satellite systems to share spectrum with terrestrial wireless operators.
Hartshorn said regulators in the United Arab Emirates, which is home to the operator of the civil-military Yahsat Ka-band satellite system, have openly suggested that these radio frequencies be shared.
If it is happening on Yahsat’s home turf, Hartshorn said, it is certain to crop up elsewhere sooner or later.
Ann Vandenbroucke, director of international regulatory policy issues at London-based Inmarsat, which expects to begin deploying its Global Xpress Ka-band system in the coming weeks, said the satellite industry should assume that none of its frequencies is beyond attack.
“I don’t think any satellite frequency assets are safe,” Vandenbroucke said. “Ka-band is not under immediate threat, but there are rumors. People are saying it could be shared, or perhaps put to better use” by terrestrial wireless applications.
“We need to go into a mode of spectrum PR,” Vandenbroucke said. “We need to go political, basically, and show how necessary this spectrum is for the oil and gas industry, for shipping and other sectors.”
Hartshorn said even the satellite industry’s declared victory over C-band use in 2007 is now being routinely violated in certain regions of the world, with broadband wireless networks causing interference with C-band satellite signals that in some nations are the main form of satellite communications.
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