The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition told the FCC the 12.2-12.7 GHz band is ready for immediate deployment for fixed broadband services, without requiring a spectrum auction. Credit: FCC via Flickr

TAMPA, Fla. — Dish Network is seeking permission to use 12 GHz spectrum for fixed terrestrial broadband in the United States, three months after regulators denied its plans for mobile services in the band following interference concerns from Starlink and other satellite operators.

It would be easier to avoid interfering with other users of the band when services are provided to fixed locations and not customers on the move, Dish executive vice president of external and legislative affairs Jeff Blum said in an interview.

“We know where the customers are,” Blum said, “unlike mobile where they can be anywhere — so it’s much easier to coordinate and share.” 

The satellite TV broadcaster, along with spectrum holding company RS Access, have licenses in the band that they are looking to upgrade to provide terrestrial 5G services.

Dish had hoped to use frequencies between 12.2 and 12.7 GHz — part of the Ku-band — for a high-power, two-way mobile service to support the wireless network it is building across the United States with other spectrum. 

However, SpaceX’s Starlink and fellow non-geostationary satellite operator OneWeb, which use the frequencies to connect user terminals, warned this plan would severely disrupt their broadband networks. 

Dish’s satellite broadcast rival DirecTV, majority owned by U.S. telco AT&T, also said millions of its customers would suffer extensive harmful interference if the plan went ahead.

Both Dish and DirecTV currently use frequencies in the band to provide linear TV programming.

Dish, RS Access, and other members of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition had argued that mobile services could coexist with other users of the spectrum.

But following multiple competing interference studies, the Federal Communications Commission voted in May to deny their mobile plan.

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition submitted a regulatory filing to the FCC Aug. 9 that calls on the regulator to instead open up 12.2-12.7 GHz frequencies to high-powered, two-way fixed broadband services.

The FCC has also proposed allowing flexible terrestrial wireless in nearby 12.7-13.25 GHz spectrum.

Allowing more than 1,000 MHz of spectrum between 12.2 GHz and 13.25 GHz for terrestrial communications would enable “the U.S. to overtake several international competitors, including China, and propel the country back into a global leadership position in 5G competitiveness,” the coalition said in the filing.

While Dish currently does not provide fixed broadband services, its sister company EchoStar does from a fleet of geostationary spacecraft. Dish and EchoStar announced plans Aug. 8 to merge their businesses to combine their terrestrial and space connectivity offerings.

SpaceX, OneWeb, and DirecTV did not respond to requests for comment on plans to provide high-powered, two-way fixed broadband services in the 12 GHz band.

Aug. 10 update: SpaceX, OneWeb, and DirecTV said they were concerned about the potential for interference by opening up the 12 GHz band to high-powered, two-way fixed broadband services in separate regulatory filings to the FCC. They called for thorough technical studies to show how planned services would not cause harmful interference.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...