The Truth About 5G Filters, And Why You Should Hold on to Your Wallet

This is an update of the original blog entry, written and published in May, 2020. It contains an update on the 5G timeline, and possible interference issues not fully realized 20 months ago.

You’ve probably already seen them; targeted ads on the Internet urging you to protect your network by allowing said company, for a fee, to install a 5G filter for you.
The ads ramped up in earnest in January 2020, after The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an Order of Proposed Modification for 5G users to share the Mid-band (or C-band spectrum) with broadcasters. Over the next two years C-band earth stations outside the top 46 markets must either clear the spectrum or move to the upper part of the bandwidth, while 5G broadband will be in the lower 280 MHz – with 20 MHz of bandwidth as guard band in between.

In spite of a guard band being specified between 5G and C-band users, new filters are considered a must-have for any C-band users staying on the Mid-band spectrum. No wonder ads are popping up, offering to supply and install these filters to owners of C-band downlink.

Under the circumstances, it’s a natural reaction to want to simply take care of the problem now, before interference becomes an issue.

Pump the brakes

May I offer a bit of advice? Don’t fall for these advertisements; they might be a scam.

Companies like these are counting on the uninformed and/or the overworked network engineer to jump at their offer. Their marketing campaigns are designed to tap into a sense of fear and urgency, with messages telling you, “5G is at C-band’s doorstep. Act now!”

Stop. Take a deep breath, and consider this: you may not need to spend money on a 5G filter, or even pay for a filter to be installed.

Here’s why:

If your uplink and downlinks are registered with the FCC, your filters are free.

Remember the FCC’s big push in the Summer and Fall of 2018 for the registration of all C-band downlinks in the US? Satellite operators paid a filing fee for each of the several thousand downlink antennas registered, with the understanding that these dishes would be protected from any 5G interference.

As the FCC released their Order earlier this year with details as to how 5G and C-band would share the mid-band frequency, exactly how the FCC would protect C-band incumbents was spelled out in include whatever your antenna may need – a filter, repoint, a complete antenna replacement (if necessary) – even the installer.

To reiterate: if your downlink antenna is registered, any and all costs associated with the repack – including, but not limited to a 5G filter, will be tracked by your network provider and paid for by the FCC with funds raised via the C-band auction.

5G filters are NOT created equal. Some may not be authentic and approved.

When the FCC first approached the C-Band Alliance (CBA) about what would be needed to offset the overwhelming signal of 5G in comparison to C-band, the CBA put months, YEARS even, into developing unique design specifications for the development of these units.

These highly engineered filters – specifically designed to mitigate the effects of 5G interference are only produced by licensed manufacturers. As of January of 2022, 5G filters have now been installed within the top 46 markets, and are working to counteract the effects of 5G transmissions in these market places. So, now IS the time for you to purchase a filter and have it installed. It’s imperative that the markets outside of the top 46 implement their own plan to mitigate the effects of 5G on their antennas in the next 24 months.

The FCC tasked the four major space station owners with repacking a large chunk of C-band spectrum. It’s a mammoth assignment and, in spite of the agreed upon accelerated timeline that cleared the first 7 transponders, the next stage won’t be completed for another two years.

Satellite owners know it will take every moment between now and scheduled clearing date of in 2023, to relocate current C-band users from 3.82-4.0 GHz. The actual auction of this first stage of C-band frequencies happened December, 2020. With the first round of filter installations and necessary repoints were completed December, 2021. The final sweep will see the clearing of the remaining 180 MHz by December 31, 2023.

Depending on where your antennas are located, there’s a chance you may never need a 5G filter.

It’s just an educated guess, but I’m thinking that 5G and their promises to connect ALL of America is just a fable.

By and large, broadband has indicated they will be on investing in 5G in the top 46 markets. Why? Because building out the 5G infrastructure to utilize the Mid-band spectrum requires installation of 5G equipment on telephone poles placed every 2,000 feet. Even with subsidies from the US government, it’s hard to imagine that every rural community will have access to 5G – at least in the foreseeable future.

If your uplink or downlinks are not operating in one of the top 46 markets, chances are good (again, at least for a while) that your C-band network won’t experience 5G interference. No interference? No need for a fancy new filter.

A word of caution:

There is another scenario cropping up that is causing some broadcasters in markets inside and outside the top 46 PEA’s to experience 5G interference NOW.

The problem is coming from broadband utilizing 5G in the lower band directly below Mid-band — the adjacent 3.5 – 3.7 GHz. The lower band is already being used by broadband for 5G, causing many broadcasters major heartburn.

What really stinks in this scenario is the knowledge that — whether you registered your C-band antenna with the FCC or not — the location of the source of this specific interference, the lower-band range, is NOT protected by the FCC.

Meaning? There’s no FCC appointed clearinghouse covering the cost of these updates; your station or network will need to deal with the filter install and peaking of the antenna yourselves.

Our best advice?

If you didn’t register your downlink antenna with the FCC, watch and wait. Again, the C-band auctions in the top 46 markets happened in stages, so – depending on what market(s) your downlink is located – it may be as late as the Fall of 2023 before you will need to purchase and install a 5G filter.

You have downlink antennas outside the top 46 market? If 5G becomes an issue in your neck of the woods, it will likely be well after the auctions have been completed. By this time you can feel confident that the 5G filters on the market are priced properly, supplied by reputable filter companies, and have been field-tested and proven reliable.

We’ve learned quite a bit about 5G and its effect on the Mid-band spectrum over the past year. We spent 2021 traveling from coast to coast, retrofitting (and sometimes replacing) antennas in preparation for the co-sharing of bandwidth with 5G. If you need further advice on how the 5G Repack may affect you, or if you’re looking for a 5G filter specifically designed and produced by an authorized manufacturer, give us a call. We can help!

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