Study by Refineries Shows Lack of Narrowband 900 MHz Channels
Friday, January 24, 2020 | Comments

The Ad Hoc Refiners Group met with FCC officials to discuss the proposal to realign the 900 MHz band to establish a Long Term Evolution (LTE) operations. The group highlighted challenges in securing narrowband 900 MHz channels in high-density markets.

Using the generally available Spectrum Watch frequency coordination software and database, a consultant working for the refineries identified potentially available site-based 900 MHz channels that could be assigned to the companies’ currently licensed 900 MHz systems and a system licensed to another refinery.

For 10 major 900 MHz systems assessed in the frequency search, all but one operated by the refiners, there are no unassigned 900 MHz site-based channels at eight locations. At the ninth location, Anterix must secure at least six channels from 900 MHz narrowband licensees and secure all unassigned and mobile only channels to reach 240 channels for a 3-by-3-megahertz channel.

The refineries discussed the importance of 900 MHz narrowband systems at their refineries, petrochemical and gas fractionation facilities. The refineries also support local emergency response efforts in the aftermath of regional hurricane events such as Hurricane Harvey, by delivering fuel to local public-safety agencies and providing resources to restart the municipal water system in Beaumont, Texas. Essentially, these 900 MHz systems must be available and reliable for the refineries to operate.

The representatives explained that the dramatic growth in natural gas and oil production in the Permian Basin and other areas of the country are driving multibillion-dollar investments to process these resources in facilities, terminals and midstream facilities in the Houston major trading area (MTA) and the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Based on the results of the study and the refineries’ challenges in securing narrowband 900 MHz channels in other high-density markets, the companies are equally concerned with shortfalls in narrowband 900 MHz channel availability in the Los Angeles/Riverside, California; Louisiana Gulf Coast-New Orleans; New York City; and San Francisco market areas.

The company representatives also explained that a 3-by-3-megahertz LTE channel will not supply the bandwidth needed to support the refinery of the future that entails digitizing refinery operations, enabling both real-time and interactive machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and generating and transmitting massive amounts of data to support in-depth analytics. Member companies have researched existing and planned wireless technologies, concluding that bandwidths above existing LTE networks will be necessary to support refinery of the future requirements.

The representatives said there is a substantial probability of harmful interference from 900 MHz LTE broadband systems to adjacent channel narrowband systems, noting that the FCC’s spectrum management practices at 800 MHz and 700 MHz called for a meaningful guard band between the narrowband and broadband spectrum blocks.

The refineries recommended that the commission should conduct testing in congested markets or in test beds replicating high-density 900 MHz narrowband environments channel to determine the potential for harmful interference from the 3-by-3-megahertz LTE operations to adjacent channel narrowband 900 MHz operations, and establish a narrowband reserve of at least 20 narrowband channels for future expansion of critical 900 MHz systems in the high-density 900 MHz narrowband Houston MTA, and establish 900 MHz narrowband reserves in other important high-density urban areas including the Los Angeles/Riverside, California; the Louisiana Gulf Coast; New York City; and San Francisco market areas.

One possible solution is to limit the broadband channel to 1.4-by-1.4 megahertz in these areas, the group said.

The ex parte letter and frequency search are here.

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