SpaceX: There’s No Software Fix To Resolve 12GHz Spat With Dish on Starlink

SpaceX: There’s No Software Fix To Resolve 12GHz Spat With Dish on Starlink

There won’t be a software patch capable of salvaging Starlink if the FCC allows Dish Network to build a 5G network using the 12GHz band, according to a SpaceX executive.

“There is no easy fix. If the FCC were to go the wrong way, there is not like a software fix, another spectrum band,” said David Goldman, SpaceX’s senior director for satellite policy.  

“This equipment is all dependent on this band. There is not an easy out,” he added. 

Goldman made the statement in a rare SpaceX briefing with journalists on Tuesday. He did so as the company has embarked on an all-out effort to convince the FCC to reject Dish’s proposal to tap the 12GHz band for a cellular network. 

SpaceX’s satellite internet service Starlink also uses the same radio spectrum to transmit high-speed broadband to users on the ground. The company now fears Dish’s proposal to tap the 12GHz spectrum for 5G purposes risks making Starlink “unusable” due to the radio interference that’ll be caused. 

The regulatory battle has led both sides to submit studies and accuse each other of misleading the FCC on the proceedings. However, Goldman maintains Dish’s 12GHz 5G plan would allegedly trigger outages for most Starlink subscribers on the ground.

The problem is that Dish is proposing using the 12GHz spectrum near the company’s Starlink dishes, which are highly sensitive to radio spectrum operating in the same band. “This isn’t a situation where there would be a software patch. This would be really, extremely detrimental to the outcome if the FCC went the wrong way,” Goldman said. 

Dish and its allies in the 5G for 12GHz coalition(Opens in a new window), including Dell Technologies, disagree. They argue both technologies can co-exist to supply users with high-speed connectivity, and have questioned why Starlink can’t use spectrum outside the 12GHz band for downlinking purposes.  

“They (SpaceX) are now falsely telling customers and the public that coexistence is not possible in the band among Starlink and 5G services,” Dish wrote(Opens in a new window) in a filing to the FCC earlier this month.

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In the meantime, SpaceX has been pressuring the FCC to act. Last month, the company petitioned Starlink users across the country to contact the US regulator about rejecting Dish’s proposal to use the 12GHz spectrum. The effort resulted in more than 90,000 users sending messages to the FCC in support of Starlink.  

“We are optimistic that this is going to go our way,” Goldman said. During Tuesday’s briefing SpaceX also invited several users of Starlink —including the Wise County Public Schools in Virginia and the Hoh tribe in Washington— to speak about how the satellite internet system has been supplying them desperately-needed high-speed broadband. 

“This is a success story for the FCC,” Goldman said of Starlink. “What Dish and Dell are asking for is the FCC to move away from the successful rule (on the 12GHz spectrum).”

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