Studios Reportedly Back Private Sector 5G Spectrum Allocation

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

Mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to increase from 28 exabytes monthly this year to 77 exabytes monthly by 2022, according to Statista. 5G is expected to add $2.7 trillion to the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to The NPD Group. So too has government concern surrounding the security and allocation of increasingly coveted (and finite) spectrum (or megahertz) required to deliver 5G data.

The FCC reportedly is considering offering 5G wireless services through a government-backed network using existing and Department of Defense spectrum, an idea that would include repurposing current commercial bandwidth.

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This isn’t sitting well with some regulators, notably Federal Communications Commission board member Michael O’Reilly, a longtime champion of market-driven initiatives over government intervention/regulation.

“To call this [government 5G network] effort a trial balloon is insulting to balloons, as all the ideas mentioned have far less consistency than balloons, and more closely resemble a child’s bubbles,” O’Reilly wrote in a blog post last month.

Enter the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a lobbying group representing satellite operators it says represent “100%” of the C-band services currently provided in the United States.

The group sent the FCC a proposal it claims would “quickly clear” C-band spectrum and would pave the way toward the United States maintaining equilibrium with China and other countries in 5G wireless services.

The CBA advocates streamlining the allocation process of 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum to 18-to-36 months after the FCC finalizes repurposing satellite’s C-band spectrum for 5G service.

Specifically, the group says satellite operators would cover all costs to clear spectrum and to implement operations in the upper 300 MHz of the band.

“Compared to FCC-run spectrum auctions, which historically have taken as long as a decade, the CBA proposal can deliver valuable spectrum to the U.S. market years ahead of any alternative proposal,” the CBA wrote.

Satellite operators would also coordinate with domestic C-band users such as Hollywood studios, content holders and distributors to “repack hundreds of audio and video services” into the remaining 300 MHz.

Representatives from Disney, Viacom, Fox, CBS, Discovery and Univision, among others, reportedly met with the FCC advocating for speedier spectrum allocation.

Indeed, Disney said its ESPN unit last month used 143 C-band feeds in one day to produce its 24/7 sports content.

“No other distribution method matches C-band in ubiquity and reliability,” the studios wrote in a letter to the FCC. “Content companies and other programmers thus rely on the C-band as the principal means of delivering video to the many thousands of earth stations in the United States.”

Trump Signs Memo Saying U.S. 5G Wireless Leadership ‘Imperative’

President Donald Trump has issued a memorandum urging progress in spectrum technology.

The memo he signed, with the subject line “Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future,” states, “It is imperative that America be first in fifth-generation (5G) wireless technologies — wireless technologies capable of meeting the high-capacity, low-latency, and high-speed requirements that can unleash innovation broadly across diverse sectors of the economy and the public sector.”

The memo asked government agencies to report to the Secretary of Commerce about their future spectrum requirements and directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy to submit a report on emerging technologies and their expected impact on non-federal spectrum demand. The OSTP is directed to issue recommendations for research and development priorities for spectrum access and efficiency.

The memo also directs the Secretary of Commerce to report on the status of existing efforts and upcoming spectrum repurposing plans as well as legislative, regulatory and other policy recommendations on increasing spectrum access for all users, creating flexible models for spectrum management that promote efficient and effective spectrum use, and using ongoing research to develop new technologies.

Finally, the memorandum calls for a Spectrum Strategy Task Force that will work to implement the new memorandum.

T-Mobile, Sprint Agree to Merge

As expected, wireless telecom carriers T-Mobile and Sprint April 29 announced entering into a definitive merger agreement. The $26.5 billion all-stock transaction values the combined companies – to be known as T-Mobile – around $146 billion with about 100 million subscribers.

The new company will be headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., and led by current T-Mobile CEO John Legere, with current T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert assuming the same position in the new operation.  Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank Group, which owns Sprint, and Marcelo Claure, CEO of Sprint, will serve on the board of the new company.

“This combination will create a fierce competitor with the network scale to deliver more for consumers and businesses … and do it all so much faster than either company could on its own,” Legere said in a statement. “As industry lines blur and we enter the 5G era, consumers and businesses need a company with the disruptive culture and capabilities to force positive change on their behalf.”

Driving the oft-rumored merger is growing nationwide rollout of 5G wireless technology. With Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Charter all launching the new technology, which claims to deliver faster mobile broadband networks, which claims video download speeds up to 10 gigabits per second.

5G is expected to create 3 million jobs in the United States and $500 billion in economic growth by 2024, according to a report from CTIA, a wireless technology trade group.

Faster video access is key to Netflix, which last year entered into a marketing deal with T-Mobile giving new data subscribers free access to the subscription video-on-demand behemoth.

“Going from 4G to 5G is like going from black and white to color TV,” Claure said. “It’s a seismic shift – one that only the combined company can unlock nationwide to fuel the next wave of mobile innovation.”

Like any major corporate merger, federal regulators have to sign off on it – no certainty into today’s M&A landscape as the Justice Department wages a legal battle against the merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

T-Mobile claims the combined company will employ more than 200,000 people, generate lower operating costs, greater economies of scale and network capacity, which it claims should make wireless, and adjacent industries like cable and broadband, more affordable for everyone.

Five years ago, T-Mobile merged with MetroPCS to better compete in the 4G market – a transaction it claimed resulted in substantial job growth. Three times the number of people work at MetroPCS today compared to the time of the acquisition in 2013.

The new T-Mobile claims it would accelerate long-term economic stimulus for the U.S. in 5G, leading to the creation of thousands of domestic jobs and supporting business opportunities for the U.S. economy.

“We’re confident that, once regulators see the compelling benefits, they’ll agree this is the right move at the right time for consumers and the country,” said Legere.