Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is 5G important?
Just as 4G enabled the generation of shared resources, 5G will bring ground-breaking services to consumers and businesses and be one of the most important drivers of innovation and economic growth over the next two decades, generating millions of new, high-paying jobs. Dubbed the “network of networks,” 5G will enable smart technologies and the Internet of Things that will result in new levels of automation and create entirely new industries. As the number of IoT devices continues to grow, potentially totaling 31 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020, the limits to what IoT technology can do may be defined not by the devices, and certainly not by engineers’ imaginations, but by the network that supports them and the bandwidth available. 5G can solve this challenge, enabling the use of embedded sensors in everything from machinery in factories to smart utilities and even traffic signs.
2. Why does speed matter in rolling out 5G?
First-mover advantage conveys the ability to set foundational infrastructure and specifications for all future 5G products—what the United States was able to do with 4G. Whoever secures this advantage with respect to mid-band spectrum will also position its communications and technology sectors to aggressively compete in the global market for 5G technologies. If we are late to the party, companies in other nations will establish the technology and therefore the standards for devices and applications that run on 5G. The U.S. needs to win the race to 5G in order to maintain its global technology leadership position, create new high-tech jobs, unleash innovation, and protect American national security. If the U.S. falls behind China in the race to 5G, Chinese manufacturers and technology will become the standard-bearers for the global 5G revolution, which could pose a grave threat to U.S. national security.
3. Why is C-band necessary for 5G?
In order for 5G to be deployed, U.S. wireless operators need access to mid-band spectrum, such as the C-band. The C-band is a “Goldilocks” band, with the right balance of coverage and capacity to facilitate 5G adoption throughout urban, suburban, and rural America.
4. What is the C-band currently being used for?
The CBA’s members use C-band spectrum to deliver virtually all of the television and radio programming consumed by U.S. citizens, powering a $100B+ annual broadcast business and serving nearly 120 million households in the continental U.S. C-band spectrum is also used for telecommunications infrastructure, critical weather tracking services, and private video and data networks in the U.S.—all of which depend upon the highly reliable propagation characteristics of C-band spectrum.
5. How did the CBA’s members obtain their C-band licenses?
The two largest CBA members acquired most of their licenses to provide satellite service to the United States in the early 2000’s through transactions approved by the US Federal Communications Commission. They continually invest in the band, launching new and better satellites and upgrading the ground infrastructure. Combined, this represents an investment of over $15 billion. These investments result in the distribution architecture which serves nearly 120 million homes in the US today with TV and radio, serving well the public interest in America for more than 40 years.
6. What is the CBA’s role now that the FCC has chosen to go with a public auction?
Chairman Pai’s recent announcement that the FCC will conduct a public auction for 280 MHz of C-band spectrum does not change the monumental task ahead of quickly and efficiently transitioning this spectrum from satellite transmissions to 5G. The CBA’s member companies represent approximately 95% of the U.S. C-band satellite services that deliver TV and radio programming to nearly 120 million American households. Only these companies can orchestrate this immensely complex transition in a timely manner. The CBA is the linchpin of a fast and safe transition of this valuable spectrum: without the voluntary participation of the CBA’s member companies, transitioning 60% of the C-band could take years.
7. Why is the CBA important in the transition process?
The CBA has a vast informational advantage and unique capabilities to facilitate an enormously complex and difficult transition of spectrum from existing satellite services to 5G as expeditiously as possible, while ensuring service continuity to the programmers and other customers currently using satellite spectrum—including CBS, Disney, NBCUniversal, Viacom, A&E, Univision, Fox, Discovery, QVC, and HSN.
8. Can’t the FCC just clear the spectrum without CBA involvement?
Section 316 of the Communications Act can support only one conclusion—the FCC may not authorize new terrestrial mobile operations in any significant portion of the C-band without obtaining the cooperation of the members of the CBA. Authorizing new terrestrial mobile operations in the C-band without the CBA’s consent would be an unlawful fundamental change to the licenses held by the CBA’s members. The CBA’s members hold station licenses and equivalent grants of U.S. market access that guarantee their right to transmit satellite service free of interference. Section 316 of the Communications Act authorizes the Commission to modify those licenses, which courts have held means to “change moderately.” Eliminating existing satellite service transmissions in the lower 300 MHz of the C-band is far too extensive to be considered a “modification,” so the active cooperation of the CBA is required.
9. What does the CBA want now?
The transition of C-band spectrum to 5G must be rapid, but must not disrupt the existing C-band services on which nearly 120 million American households rely. A fast, safe transition requires the CBA’s involvement as transition facilitator. There is a growing consensus that the FCC must provide for CBA involvement and incentives to facilitate a speedy C-band transition that will benefit U.S. consumers, the U.S. economy, U.S. global competitiveness, and U.S. national security. Because of the CBA’s unique knowledge of the current broadcast distribution ecosystem and its unique capabilities to accomplish the transition, incentives are required to ensure that the CBA accomplishes the difficult and complicated tasks needed to clear C-band spectrum for 5G. Absent incentives to do so, the members of the CBA would not choose to go from providing services in 500 MHz of spectrum in the continental United States, as they do today, to providing services in only 200 MHz of spectrum, and certainly would not choose to do so in an expedited manner.
10. Why should satellite companies receive any money in this proceeding?
The task to transition 100 television and radio networks to a 200 MHz environment is massive. In order to do so, the satellite operators would need to purchase eight satellites to ensure adequate capacity and install close to 100,000 filters on approximately 35,000 antennas nationwide to avoid harmful interference between incumbent satellite services and newly introduced 5G services. The transition will also result in the CBA’s members losing significant revenues from the start of the clearing due to the compression of services, which will result in certain customers requiring less satellite bandwidth. As with any business that must observe its fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders, the CBA’s members would not choose to make these significant changes, foregoing mid- and long-term C-band business profitability, without adequate incentives.