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Sirius XM "extremely disturbed" by FCC wireless non-interference proposals

Sirius XM satellite radio CEO Mel Karmazin warned the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday that the FCC’s proposed non-interference rules with a nearby wireless band won’t do.

“We are extremely disturbed by the proposal,” Karmazin confided in a letter sent to the agency’s Chair, Julius Genachowski. “The proposed rules seem to bear little resemblance to the technical record in this proceeding. More importantly, the proposal raises the real and direct threat of crippling interference to our 35 million current listeners and the 90 million satellite radio-equipped vehicles that will share the road with mobile WCS by 2015.”

As we’ve reported, Sirius XM and the owners of spectrum in the Wireless Communications Services band have been wrangling for years about how to avoid interference, given the nearness of their licenses to each other in the 2.3 GHz zone. The owners of WCS, which include AT&T, Comcast, and NextWave, want to step up use of the region for broadband, but these interference concerns have gotten in the way.

Last year, WCS reps proposed compromise limits on transmission power for WCS base stations and Sirius XM repeaters. But Sirius questions whether the interference tests conducted in Ashburn, Virginia upon which the recommendation was based would be as accurate as looking at Clearwire’s WiMAX network in the Philadelphia area, especially when it comes to mobile video use. “As this data was based on the real-world functioning of an operational WiMAX system, it provides a more transparent look into mobile handset performance than any other WiMAX-related information or description previously filed in these proceedings,” the company wrote last month.

WCS and Sirius XM engineers had a meeting about the FCC’s latest proposals on Tuesday. We don’t have a copy of the plan, but here’s the rest of Karmazin’s reaction to it:

“• We were told bluntly that the staff proposal would enable the deployment of WCS ‘usage models’ that would cause interference to satellite radio consumers.

• The staff proposal for WCS mobile transmitters in the C and D blocks — the blocks immediately adjacent to our satellites — would double the power levels the WCS licensees themselves asked for, and would exceed the levels the WCS licensees themselves demonstrated in Ashburn, Virginia.

We were told not to worry that the relaxed WCS technical standards might cause interference to satellite radio because WCS licensees would bear the ultimate responsibility to avoid interference. The staff offered no details about any sort of coordination or complaint process that would identify and eliminate sources of interference created by WCS networks—and particularly mobile transmitters. This entire process presumes that consumers would complain instead of just discontinuing their subscriptions. Any such cumbersome, after-the-fact system would not work to protect consumers and would place the Commission in the impossible role of policing interference to all of our subscribers.”

All this comes in the context of the FCC’s efforts to get more  licenses to the wireless sector, which is experiencing a huge shortfall of the spectrum it needs to meet mobile broadband demand. The Commission is expected to publicly unveil the plan for WCS (or at least an outline) when its National Broadband Plan is unveiled on the 16th.

But the sneak preview is getting a pretty major pan from Sirius XM. “This cannot be the result the Commission intends,” Karmazin’s letter concludes. “I urge you to establish a process that allows the Commission and all parties to better understand the real impact of the proposed rules.”

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2 Responses to Sirius XM "extremely disturbed" by FCC wireless non-interference proposals

  1. Jammin' Jesse March 14, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Why dosen’t the fcc find somewhere else to set up free internet for America.
    I have an idea. How about using the old analog television air ways to transmit intrernet? I am sick of the fcc trying to control, block or interfere with satellite SiriusXM radio. First they hold up the merger, they want to control some content and now this. Come on. Find somewhere else to do what you want. There must be space somewhere?

  2. Doesn't Work already September 8, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    I have seen the drop in signal to almost nothing when I am near a Clearwire tower on my Sirius radio. Then, as I move away, the signal comes back up. All on a cloudless day with no obstructions. You can’t rell me this isn’t already a problem! Something needs to be done to protect Sirius/XM transmissions from interference. I have had Sirius for 4 years, and don’t plan on purchasing anything from Clearwire unless this situation is cleaned up.

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