The Impact Of The Battle For C-Band On The Satellite Industry

There is a raging debate in the international and regional spectrum regulatory community on the issue of sharing Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) C-band downlink spectrum rights with the International Mobile Telecommunication Advanced (IMT-Advanced) service.

The spectrum is currently being used by satellite operators primarily for telecom and TV broadcasting services, whereas the mobile industry wants to access and use the same band for the IMT-Advanced service. 

IMT Advanced is a term coined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to define a terrestrial service that will be an all-IP based mobile broadband solution for smartphones and other mobile devices. 

Questions raised on the hotly debated issue include: Should C-band be shared? Would it cannibalize current spectrum allocation? What is the criteria for C-band sharing and how would it impact users, operators and regulators?

Over the last three years, various study groups at ITU have been discussing the topic of sharing criteria between the incumbent satellite service and IMT Advanced. The final decision on whether C-band spectrum can be used by IMT Advanced will be taken at the World Radio-communication Conference (WRC-15) in November this year. The WRC is held every three to four years and is the highest international treaty-level organization that decides on the international radio regulations governing the allocation and use of frequency spectrum.

Studies conducted by ITU study groups have confirmed that the introduction of IMT Advanced in C-band will interfere with satellite signals and severely degrade the quality of service. Other studies have shown that the spectrum requirements for IMT Advanced are over estimated, and the market data provided from the mobile industry is not correct.

As such, the satellite industry and a number of developing countries are rallying against the proposal of IMT Advanced using the C-band spectrum that is currently utilized for satellite communications. A key consideration is that developing and under developed countries are dependent on C-band for their critical connectivity requirements which includes a high reliance on solutions provided by satellite communications.

Worth noting is that WRC, which was held in 2007, also discussed the use of satellite C-band spectrum by IMT eight years prior and, even at that time, the studies conducted by the ITU Study Groups confirmed that it is not feasible for IMT Advanced to share the frequency band with satellite service. 

The Significance Of C-Band
C-band was the first frequency band to be allocated for use by the satellite communications industry for Fixed and Broadcasting Satellite Services. C-band frequencies have long been recognized to perform better under adverse weather conditions such as rain and snow fade in comparison with other satellite frequency ranges, such as Ku- and Ka-band. 

Although new frequencies have emerged over the years and are being used by the satellite industry, C-band still represents a highly significant portion of the total capacity currently supplied by satellites. Today, both C- and Ku-bands are nearly reaching congestion levels.

In order to meet requirements for reliable and uninterrupted communications for maritime, banking, defense and governments, C-band is often preferred over other higher frequency bands which are prone to rain fade. C-band also easily meets the stringent reliability requirements of service levels of over 99 percent of satellite operators.

Examples of how C-band is used in satellite communications include:

• Providing connectivity between multiple locations spread around a country

• Providing direct and backup international connectivity especially in landlocked countries and island communities. In some cases, satellite communications is the only means of connectivity with the outside world

• For use onboard shipping vessels

• Providing cellular backhaul services

• Broadcasting of TV signals including Direct-To-Home (DTH)  

While the terrestrial mobile community is looking to use C-band for Advanced IMT applications, the same band is used by them for backhauling mobile traffic from their own base stations. 

C-band is also used by other types of satellite systems, such as geostationary mobile satellite systems for their feeder link operations as well as for critical telemetry, tracking and command operations. Mobile satellite systems are increasingly used to support disaster and emergency communications because it is easy to use and deploy. Furthermore, it supports various mobility based communication requirements for the media, news gathering, maritime, government and defense sectors, among others. Therefore, C-band is the backbone of MSS systems which are the only available means of communication when other channels go down for one reason or another. 

To add fuel to the fire, there is an emerging trend among developing countries to launch their own national satellite systems to meet Universal Service Obligation requirements. This trend supports regional and sub-regional connectivity requirements, which will benefit users who will then have access to a wide selection of low-cost mobile devices. 

Satellite manufacturers are taking note by innovating and considering the introduction of multi-beam satellites in C-band, similar to those in the Ka-band to support higher speeds and throughputs.

As the debate rages on and new trends come to the forefront, it is of utmost importance is to protect the C-band spectrum for use by satellite operators in order to continue providing critical connectivity requirements. It is also crucial to ensure that C-band technology continues to evolve and grow to meet future trends in information-communication technologies.

Zahid Zaheer is the Senior Director of GMPCS (Global Mobile Personal Communications Services) Affairs at Thuraya. Zahid has been with the company for 16 years and is responsible for market access and licensing, regulatory affairs, spectrum management and coordination. Prior to joining Thuraya, Zahid worked with PAKSAT satellite, Pakistan Telecom Authority. Zahid is an engineer by training, who holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California and a MBA in Finance & Accounting.

Strengthening Partnerships and Breaking Barriers to Shape the Industry

It was all about “Breaking Barriers” at this year’s Thuraya Partner Conference (TPC), where we hosted more than 200 customers, Service Partners and developers at the iconic Waldorf Astoria Resort in Dubai, from 31 March to 1 April.

With the theme “Breaking Barriers”, we wanted to recognize the milestones we have achieved together with our Service Partners, and reaffirm our drive to continue disrupting the satellite industry. During the TPC, we outlined our strategy to strengthen our partnerships and stressed the significance of our indirect distribution model, ensuring that our customers get the best MSS solutions and support—and at the right prices.


Thuraya CEO, Samer Halawi opens the 13th annual Thuraya Partner Conference

We further reinforced Thuraya’s efforts to address the evolving needs of both traditional MSS segments and emerging market sectors. Bilal El-Hamoui, Chief Commercial Officer at Thuraya, highlighted 2014 as the Year of Great Growth, and expanded our aim to work closely with customers and partners to remain at the forefront of the mobile satellite sector.


Thuraya’s Chief Commercial Officer, Bilal El Hamoui addresses the delegates.


Thuraya’s Chief Strategy Officer, Jassem Nasser 

Apart from illustrating the significant investments made to serve maritime customers, we showcased our expanding pipeline of innovative equipment and services that satisfy the demanding needs of various market segments. We also announced the upcoming launch of our newest product offering, the Thuraya XT PRO, the world’s most advanced satellite mobile phone that is equipped with long battery life and ruggedized for professional users.


Our Guests

At the same time, Thuraya will strive to strengthen its retail strategy with the aim of breaking into the consumer market. Randy Roberts, Vice President of Innovation at Thuraya, shared his perspective on the potential of this untapped market, noting that mobile users are increasingly demanding to be connected anytime, anywhere.


Celebrated photojournalist, Martin Edstrom (right) relates how Thuraya satcom helped him reach out to the outside world from the jungles of Vietnam.

World-renowned BASE jumper and snow boarder Geraldine Fasnacht later took the stage and shared how the consumer-friendly features of Thuraya satellite phones enabled her to connect with family and friends as she travelled to remote locations for her adventures.


We’ll meet again next year!

The TPC was a resounding success, thanks to the enthusiastic support and participation from our valued guests. We look forward to the next TPC as we continue delivering disruptive innovations that will shake the satellite industry.

Innovating for the greater good: Thuraya and Etisalat deploy drones to fast track humanitarian assistance

“Every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.” – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon

What drives the progress of humankind? The answer is simple: the extraordinary desire to innovate everyday existence. 

Countries like the United Arab Emirates are at the forefront in adapting innovative ideas and exciting technologies into practical solutions in order to improve people’s lives.  Great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime! 

To foster innovation and ingenuity, the UAE government instituted the Drones for Good Award in January this year, mobilizing creative minds to provide technological solutions using drones to modern day issues.

Launching the award program, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai stated: “We want to reach to people before they reach us. We want to save time, to shorten distances, to increase effectiveness and to make services easier.”


His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai at the Etisalat – Thuraya pavilion along with His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister of Presidency Affairs

For us, at Thuraya, innovation is not just a philosophy, but a way of life. We believe that innovation, social entrepreneurship and commitment go hand in hand. It was our pioneering spirit that drove us to spearhead space and satellite technology in the UAE.  This intrinsic need to innovate and excel is inexorably tied to the company’s overall purpose of Saving and Improving Lives.

Indeed, over the years, we have transformed the most sophisticated technologies into smart, simple and effective solutions to keep our customers connected, even in locations beyond the reach of terrestrial GSM networks.


Thuraya’s satellite communications solutions are drone-compatible! 

Thuraya’s innovative spirit was on full display at the Drones for Good competition where we collaborated with Etisalat, the UAE’s ace telecom operator, and won the coveted award for the UAE Government Entities.  


Etisalat and Thuraya are the proud winners

About Drones & Satcom Technology     
Drone technology can be combined with Thuraya’s satellite system to save lives by linking remote, inaccessible locations, such as disasters areas, off-shore oil rigs or ocean vessels.


Thuraya’s products and services save lives in the remotest outposts of the world

Connected through Thuraya network, the Etisalat drones deliver high-grade medical diagnostic tools to emergency sites, enabling non-medically trained individuals to administer basic medical procedures under real-time supervision by doctors connected wirelessly to the emergency site from hospitals, remotely executing life-saving decisions in real-time. Thuraya’s specialized solutions are used to track the drones’ whereabouts.

Thuraya is already active in remote regions to deliver humanitarian assistance during emergencies such as disasters and pandemics. We are committed to serving humanity through delivering the essential tools for optimal connectivity, never leaving anyone out of reach.