WHAT BROADBAND’S 5G WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO DELIVER

It’s being touted as the best thing since sliced bread; the most innovative technology since Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.

5G.

The broadband industry promises it to be a “new” kind of network – a platform for innovations that will not only enhance today’s mobile broadband services, but expand mobile services to support a plethora of devices and services.

To bring 5G to the nation, the broadband industry is pushing their way into the mid-band satellite frequencies of 3.7 to 4.2 GHz; the same bandwidth currently inhabited by most radio, tv and cable headends in the US. With 5G advocates hammering home their “needs” to the FCC and Capitol Hill, where does this leave broadcasters?

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is so enamored with 5G he believes society is standing on the brink of a “technology revolution” that will completely change the way we do just about everything. That’s why he may say “nice things” (as he described) about the C-band Alliance, but O’Reilly ultimately supports a repurposing of more than 300 MHz of the mid-band, or C-band, frequency.

Related article: “O’Reilly in Middle of C-band Debate”

Rumor has it that this push for 300 MHz or more of the mid-band frequency is behind the fourth-quarter delay of the FCC Commission’s decision regarding how the C-band “loaf” will be sliced.

So where does that leave broadcasters? Though many radio and tv networks have highlighted the fact that having different redundant technology is crucial, simply counting on fiber without having satellite in the equation is a firm “no” for the vast majority.

Why? Because when terrestrial connectivity is destroyed or heavily damaged during a disaster, satellite is the ONLY technology which provides a life-saving critical link.

A year ago this month we released the blog entry: “Superheroes: How Broadcasters After Hurricane Michael Saved the Day.”
It was written a mere few weeks after a Category 5 hurricane hit Bay County, Florida – right where LinkUp’s home office is located.
It’s a great reminder of how broadcasters must be prepared when Mother Nature runs amok and cries havoc on all forms of communications.

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It may not be something that is often contemplated, but broadcasters understand that what they do holds significant value. The information and entertainment that they facilitate provides a critical service within the communities – large and small- that they serve.

But let’s be real; it usually takes a major crisis of sorts for others to see their true worth.

There is no better example of the importance of broadcasting than what we in the Florida Panhandle experienced following landfall of Hurricane Michael, October 10, 2018. The Category 5 storm came ashore quickly and with furor, knocking out everything – terrestrial and wireless communications and all utilities (electricity and water). The citizens of Bay County, Florida were left – literally and figuratively – in the dark.

Here’s where local radio and television stepped up – particularly IHeart Media’s Panama City stations.

You see, the grand majority of broadcasters in the US use satellite for programming. They may have terrestrial connectivity for backup, but they know they can count on satellite.

Back to October 10, 2018. Just hours after the vicious storm passed, the citizens of Bay County tuned their radio dials to IHeart Media. Thanks to a triple-redundant signal that included satellite, the network was live on their country powerhouse, WPAP, and being simulcast to all four local stations, providing critical communications and information.

While sharing the needs of individuals and neighborhoods to volunteers, for days following the storm the on-air talent shared information about critical resources (food, water, and health care) to their listeners.

The IHeart facilities quickly became a hub for information. Like a digital town square, individuals looking for assistance called in to the station to ask for help or stopped in and left messages to be read on the air.

It wasn’t slick; it wasn’t pretty. But it WAS broadcasting at its’ best. And it was exactly what the community needed.

Make no doubt about it, broadcasters using satellite were able to do what the multi-billion dollar terrestrial giants like Sprint, AT&T and Verizon could not do; be a critical link in the dissemination of life and death community information in the aftermath of a storm.

Fiber is NOT designed to be that critical link, and neither are wireless phones. Terrestrial connectivity is an elegant solution to many of our communication requirements, but it will NEVER be a solution during a natural disaster. Neither in it’s present form, or with the roll-out of 5G.

Just ask the people of Bay County, Florida.

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