Intelsat and SES team on US spectrum proposal for 5G

Intelsat and SES have launched a joint proposal to the Federal Communications Commission over the use of C-band downlink spectrum by satellite and terrestrial providers in the US.


The two satellite providers aid they are seeking to protect the wide array of satellite services in the 3700-4200MHz C-band of spectrum while that is opened up for some terrestrial mobile use.

The proposal calls for the creation of a consortium which would be open to all satellite firms operating in the C-band frequencies in any part of the lower 48 United States. This would oversee governance of the initiative, define and implement a methodology for spectrum clearance, and serve as the interface for market-based transactions with mobile operators looking to use C-band spectrum.

SES is joining Intelsat's effort, which is also backed by Intel, to serve U.S. customers using a particular part of C-band airwaves while reserving some of that spectrum for other wireless operators. The proposal comes as US operators look for additional sources of spectrum to support 5G rollout plans.

The deal includes a commercial and technical framework that will enable mobile operators to quickly access about 100 MHz of nationwide C-band downlink spectrum in the US, and so speed up the deployment of 5G.

The plan could face opposition from mobile operators in the US, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal, as some are seeking the FCC to push satellite operators off the band completely.

Operators such as AT&T and Verizon have already revealed plans to launch 5G services by the end of 2018, but the availability of spectrum is seen as a major challenge in some markets.

The proposal would ensure the continued distribution of video and audio programming to more than 100 million U.S. households, the satellite firms claimed, and “the reliable provision of critical data connectivity in rural areas and emergency situations, as well as services delivered to the U.S. government.”

Karim Michel Sabbagh, president and CEO of SES, said, “The C-band is and remains a critical component of the U.S. network architecture. Space and ground segment operators have invested billions of dollars in U.S. C-band networks and connectivity and generate important value out of it. It is therefore our duty and mission to protect the C-band in the U.S. from any form of disruption and preserve its use. 

“The C-band satellite consortium is to be set up to ensure that the expansion of the C-band ecosystem in the U.S. will protect the interests of hundreds of established services and millions of American end-users, while at the same time paving the way for the creation of next-generation 5G terrestrial services.”

The outcome to the proposal will depend on a decision by the FCC over spectrum allocation, which is expected to begin over the next few months. Should the US regulator back the plan, Intelsat and SES said they could begin moving operations to a narrower band within around two years.

Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler said: “Our priority continues to be creating a framework that provides certainty and protects the quality and reliability of the services we provide to our media, network services and government customers. Our proposed market-based solution provides a speedy resolution to the U.S. objective of accelerating deployment of 5G services. 

“With Intelsat and SES now in agreement on major tenets of the framework and with the support of Intel, we are confident in our ability to implement this proposal quickly and efficiently, ultimately to the benefit of American consumers and the U.S. economy.”

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