TV Answer Man, I heard that DIRECTV and Dish are fighting in Washington over their satellites and Elon Musk has something to do with it. Is that real? Can you explain for us? — Ron, Mobile, Alabama.

Ron, it’s true. Let me explain.

DIRECTV has joined the Elon Musk-founded SpaceX company in opposing Dish’s proposal to use the 12GHz spectrum for its 5G communications network. The satcaster says Dish’s 5G wireless technology could create interference with its satellites which deliver TV signals to nearly 15 million subscribers using the 12GHz spectrum. (Musk’s company says Dish’s 5G network could cause outages for its satellite-delivered Internet service, which is also delivered from satellites on the 12GHz spectrum.)

“A new mobile service in the 12GHz band would cause severe and widespread interference to DirecTV subscribers in all areas of the country, whether urban, suburban, or rural,” DIRECTV states in its filing with the FCC.

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Dish, which uses satellites in 12GHz for its satellite TV business, says the 5G network would not create any interference. The company has countered with its own filing with the FCC which argues that it would not use the spectrum for 5G if it thought it would hurt its own business.

“Since 1996, Dish has been the primary user of the 12GHz band to provide service to our satellite TV customers. Dish has no interest in harming its own, or any other, customers, and wants to share the band between satellite and terrestrial operations,” the filing says.

It’s unclear when the FCC will rule on whether Dish can use 12GHz for 5G; one report in October 2020 said a decision could come in December 2020. That obviously didn’t happen but the double-barreled opposition from Musk’s company and DIRECTV could increase the pressure on the agency to find a solution sooner than later.

What’s also unclear is if this skirmish could affect a possible satellite merger negotiation between DIRECTV and Dish. Could the two companies still be discussing a merger if they are arguing over whether one company is trying to basically sabotage the other’s business?

Ron, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann