Anthony Whelan, director, DG CNECT, European Commission. Credit. European Commission

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Commission is maintaining its position that the 28-GHz spectrum band be maintained for satellite uses and not be ceded to terrestrial networks even if the issue comes up for debate at November’s global frequency-allocation conference.

The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) scheduled for November as yet does not have 28-GHz on its formal agenda. But as has been shown at previous WRCs, issues nowhere to be found on the agenda can surface with the determination of a few delegations.

Satellite industry officials worry that terrestrial interests will attempt to undermine the satellite priority given to 28 GHz at WRC-19 regardless of whether the issue is formally on the agenda of the four-week meeting:

For now at least, it appears that the satellite sector has the European Commission firmly on its side. That is more important than ever this year because the European Union has agreed to come up with binding common positions on many of the issues on the WRC-19 agenda.

“On the threatening end [for satellites] there is the question of a band that is not on the agenda for IMT [terrestrial mobile] classification — namely the 28-GHz band, where there are a couple of interested parties around the world looking at it for terrestrial use,” said Anthony Whelan, director-general of the commission’s DG-CNECT.

“We remain persuaded that this is a band with satellite communications of great value that needs to be developed. I think that will inform our EU internal regulations, and therein our position, including with opportunities such as Earth stations in motion,” Whelan said here in a briefing during the European Space Policy Conference, organized by Business Bridge Europe.

A meeting of European Union governments scheduled later this year is expected to discuss spectrum-allocation recommendations made by the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), which is trying to meld the offering divergent opinions of 28 member nations into a single WRC-19 spectrum policy position.

The council will then make a final decision on most, but not all, WRC-19 topics.  Whelan said that for these subjects, the EU will act as a single voice at WRC-19.

“Once that position is established, we can convey to our negotiating partners a firm position from which it should not be possible to peel off individual member state interests with one or another attractive counter offer,” Whelan said.

It is not yet settled which topics will be subject to — in principle — binding EU-wide policy and which will be left to the discretion of individual member states.

Whelan said that sometime around late February the commission will make its proposals to the EU Council. The 26-GHz band, he said, is formally on the WRC-19 agenda and should be made available to satellite operators as well even if it’s mainly for terrestrial use.

The RSPG has already made several broad policy statements, including suggestions that the satellite sector be accommodate in the 26-GHz spectrum band’s use to permit satellite delivery of 5G connectivity outside the metropolitan areas.

“European administrations should ensure the proper balance between the benefits of allowing 5G use and keeping access to satellite operators in this frequency band,” the RSPG said. “Administrations should consider how to use the toolkit taking into account specific national situations while at the same time facilitating practical deployment of 5G networks in this band.

“[T]he impact of satellite Earth stations on the deployment of 5G networks could be minimized if they are deployed in sparsely populated areas. … Administrations are encouraged to maintain the possibility for additional earth stations to be deployed in their territory.

“To facilitate this, and prior to awarding 26 GHz spectrum for 5G, administrations are encouraged to consult relevant stakeholders to establish if they have plans to deploy additional Earth stations and to work with them to identify potential sites where such future Earth stations could be deployed that would be unlikely to have a significant impact on 5G deployment and coverage. If such sites are identified, Administrations should maintain the possibility for the planned Earth stations to be deployed and they should establish transparent, objective and proportionate criteria to safeguard their future operations. Where necessary, appropriate provisions can be included in the relevant 5G authorization.”