SINGAPORE — Satellite operators and a representative of the terrestrial mobile broadband industry went head-to-head here June 16 to debate whether some portion of the C-band spectrum reserved for satellite use could not be shared with terrestrial operators.

The debate came as the satellite sector and mobile broadband network operators prepare to renew in 2015 a battle that the satellite sector thought it had won in 2007 during a meeting of global radio frequency regulators.

At the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in 2007, the satellite industry, in what was then considered an unprecedented effort at joint lobbying, mostly preserved C-band from encroachment by wireless broadband.

Satellite operators argued then that wireless broadband sources operate at power levels that would wipe out the relatively weak C-band signals coming from satellites in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the equator, and that any sharing of the C-band spectrum in question would result in satellite signal disruption.

Since then, the mobile broadband industry has grown much larger, and is now viewed as a vector for economic growth. A replay of the same battle is expected in early 2015, when the next four-week WRC is scheduled. WRC conferences of global radio spectrum regulators are organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations affiliate.

At the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Satellite Industry Forum here June 16, each side laid out its arguments. CASBAA commissioned the Paris-based Euroconsult space consultancy to assess how much C-band is used in just three Asia-Pacific nations — India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

The study, released here June 16 and made available on the CASBAA industry organization’s website — — concludes that C-band satellite services are a key to these nations’ disaster response networks. In India, the study found 7,000 C-band antennas in use by military and police forces.

In Indonesia, 75,000 bank ATMs use C-band for cash transactions, and the government uses C-band links to deliver services to the nation’s many islands.

‘Stop Saying You’re All Moving to Ka-band’

The demonstration of C-band’s vitality is necessary because the ITU makes judgments of the use of a spectrum by what is reported to it by its member nations.

Yvon Henri, head of the ITU’s Space Services Department — who is viewed as sympathetic to the satellite sector — said the industry so far has done a poor job of communicating C-band’s importance.

“Stop saying you’re all moving to Ka-band,” Henri told the satellite industry represented at the conference. “When I hear that I take it you don’t care about C-band.”

The higher-frequency Ka-band is viewed as promising for certain applications but is less stable in rain and is viewed as unlikely to replace C-band in tropical nations along the equator anytime soon. Henri said the satellite industry needs to emphasize this point to the governments using C-band, and that these governments in turn need to inform the ITU.

Henri also said that ITU rules of “use it or lose it” with respect to spectrum mean governments need to register their antennas with the international regulatory body if they want to demonstrate that the spectrum is not lying unused.

Satellite officials said it is unrealistic to have governments register each antenna — a relic of the start of the satellite era — just as it would be unrealistic to register each mobile telephone.

Henri said that may be the case, but that some effort to register C-band antennas may be needed if the satellite sector wishes to preserve its C-band allocations.

“Register your stations in the [ITU] Master Registry,” Henri said. “Send [the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau] information about those that cannot be fully registered. That will give international recognition to their use.”

It appeared at the conference that even some future satellite operators are not cognizant of their dependence on C-band. One official here said his coming lease of C-band capacity in India would not be threatened by wireless broadband interference because his company was leasing bandwidth on multiple satellites.

A CASBAA member informed this company that the threat to his future transmissions was no less real just because the capacity was spread over multiple satellites.

Veena Rawat, senior spectrum adviser of the London-based GSM Association, which is calling for C-band spectrum sharing, said the advent of micro cellular networks and the ability to adjust power levels should enable some C-band sharing.

“We are not here to steal C-band,” Rawat said. “We want some C-band.”

How much is being requested by the mobile broadband industry? Rawat said her organization estimates that between 600 and 800 megahertz of additional spectrum allocations are needed to accommodate the explosive growth in demand for mobile broadband.

Rawat reminded the satellite operators that any C-band allocation given to terrestrial broadband would not be compulsory. Each government would remain free to determine how spectrum within its territory is allocated.

“I want to be balanced,” Henri said. “There has been tremendous growth in demand for mobile broadband since WRC 2007. There is a need for harmonized bands to facilitate global roaming. WRC-15 will have to find solutions.”

Follow Peter on Twitter: @pbdes


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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.