Sharing the 28 GHz band between various satellite services and terrestrial use, specifically 5G has been discussed for some time now. And much of the talk has been around interference between the incumbent satellite services and new 5G services.
It is difficult to say whether the potential 5G services will interfere with various satellite channels, or the satellite industry is simply trying to keep from sharing frequencies and hoard them for their own use. There has been little testing and so far, no real plan for what and where 5G will play in this band, so the discussions are still in the fact-finding stages.
However, this band is also home to maritime communications, which are looking for some bandwidth to offer the same high-speed services to certain high-end maritime operations, specifically the cruise ship industry. What lends some support to this theory of hoarding frequencies are companies, such as O3b, which have developed technologies that can provide uber-wide bandwidth to cruise ships. According to O3b, their technology is capable of providing so much bandwidth that on the day it launched, a “single Royal Caribbean cruise ship instantly had more bandwidth than the rest of the global cruise industry combined.”, And when O3b launched service to a second Royal Caribbean ship, those two ships had more capacity than all other maritime vessels combined.
Ok, so that’s good for O3b and the cruise ship industry and a great marketing opportunity. But does that allow them to have exclusive use of these frequencies? I’m all in favor of making sure existing, proven critical frequencies remain protected, but just like any emerging technology, if it requires additional spectrum it should apply for it just like any other market. So, it makes sense that this new market should be in competition with 5G and each should have the rights to prove they can work together at these frequencies. Why should O3b be given exclusive frequency access unless it can be proven that interference by other platforms, such as 5G will add unmitigable interference. If they can coexist, and if interference can be mitigated, then the frequencies should be shareable.
We all want to protect our frequencies. And in certain cases, such as first responders, law enforcement and parallel segments, spectrum needs to be protected. But in the cruise ship business, that isn’t mission critical and, with the burgeoning appetite for emerging bandwidth, everybody needs to take a hard look at what they really need. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pointed out recently, both the mobile and satellite industries need to double down on their efforts to compromise and find spectrum sharing solutions.