Communications Authority Consults the Industry on the Proposed Re-allocation of 3.4 – 3.7 GHz Band from Fixed Satellite Service to Mobile Service

As foreshadowed in the work plan of the Communications Authority ("CA") promulgated on 21 March 2017 to make available additional radio spectrum for public mobile services, including the future fifth generation ("5G") services, the CA today (27 July 2017) launched a public consultation on the proposed re-allocation of the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band from fixed satellite service ("FSS") to mobile service in 2020.  

According to the International Telecommunication Union, the 3.4 - 3.6 GHz band may be allocated for mobile service apart from FSS.  Over the past few years, many advanced economies have been actively exploring the use of the frequency band for the provision of public mobile services.  More recently, the Mainland has indicated that there will be commercial deployment of 5G services with use of the frequency band in 2020. 

In Hong Kong, the 3.4 - 4.2 GHz band, which is commonly known as the C-Band, is currently assigned for the space-to-Earth links of FSS.  The FSS utilising the C-Band underpins various applications including provision of non cable-based external fixed telecommunications network services ("EFTNS"), operation of self-provided external telecommunications systems ("SPETS"), reception of satellite television programmes via Satellite Master Antenna Television ("SMATV") systems and television receive-only ("TVRO") systems, satellite downlink capacity leasing as well as telemetry, tracking and control ("TT&C") of satellites.

"In line with the recent development in other economies in particular the Mainland, the CA is actively contemplating the case of re-allocating the lower part of the C-Band (i.e. the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band) from FSS to mobile service.  With a view to minimising any interference to FSS operating in the remaining portion of the C-Band (i.e. 3.7 - 4.2 GHz band), only 200 MHz of spectrum in the range of 3.4 - 3.6 GHz will be assigned for the provision of public mobile services while the 100 MHz of spectrum in the range of 3.6 - 3.7 GHz will be designated as a guard band," a spokesperson for the CA said.

Any network operators who intend to provide public mobile services with the use of the proposed 3.4 - 3.6 GHz band would be held accountable for the appropriate rectification work so as to protect the existing FSS systems with the necessary mitigating measures already in place.  As there are about 1,600 SMATV systems with 890,000 user outlets in Hong Kong, to avoid any widespread impact on SMATV systems scattered over the territory of Hong Kong, the Office of the Communications Authority ("OFCA") has commissioned a technical consultant to advise on the feasible mitigating measures to enable the co-existence of SMATV systems with future public mobile services to be operating in the C-Band.  To further safeguard the existing satellite earth stations receiving TT&C signals conveyed in the C-Band, restriction zones may need to be imposed on public mobile services operating in the 3.4 - 3.6 GHz band to minimise interference to these TT&C stations.

"If the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band is to be re-allocated from FSS to mobile service, an advance notification will be given to all the concerned spectrum assignees to enable them to better prepare for the changes in the spectrum allocation.  In anticipation of the commercial launch of 5G services by the Mainland in the 3.4 - 3.6 GHz band in 2020, the CA is minded to give an advance notice of two years to the affected spectrum assignees, following its decision on the re-allocation to be made in early 2018, in order for the proposed re-allocation to take effect in early 2020," the spokesperson added.

The CA invites the telecommunications industry and other affected persons to give their views on the proposed re-allocation of the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band on or before 7 September 2017.  The consultation paper can be downloaded from the website of the CA.

Communications Authority

27 July 2017