Intelsat responds to FCC’s C-band proposal

Intelsat responds to FCC’s C-band proposal

07 February 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Intelsat has responded to comments by the by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai about C-band spectrum.

In a series of Twitter posts back in 2019, Pai stated that he’s identified four things that the FCC must do in order to meet this goal. One, to free up spectrum for 5G; two to do so quickly; three to generate money for the Commission; and four, to ensure the continued use of the C-band (3.7 - 4.2GHz) for services.

One solution Pai put forward was a public auction of 280MHz of the C-band, carried out by the FCC themselves. The suggestion came as a major departure from the market-based solution advocated by the satellite industry by way of private auction in exchange for a billion-dollar contribution to the US treasury and support to create a program for rural 5G networks.

At the time the C-Band Alliance comprised of Intelsat, SES and Telesat, said: “The announcement does not address the critical involvement of the incumbent satellite operators in executing the complex task of reconfiguring and transitioning their networks,” the C-Band Alliance said. “Nor does the announcement address the fundamental modification of the rights afforded by the existing FCC licenses held by the CBA members which would be required under a public auction approach.”

Since then, Pai has made a few changes to his proposal and during his address at the INFORMATION technology and innovation foundation earlier this week he said:

  • That they would continue with a public auction as it has a “track record of successful and transparent auctions” adding that it would “ensure fairness”. He also said that as the FCC has the necessary pieces in place to conduct a public auction quickly and do so privately would require “an unprecedented grant of authority to private entities.”
  • That they favour clearing lower 280MHz of the C-band and making it available for flexible use, leaving the upper 200MHz of the band for satellite players to continue delivering its services.
  • The cost of satellite companies relocating their operations has been estimated to cost 3 billion to $5 billion and under Pai’s updated proposal winning bidders will be required to reimburse them for these costs.
  • In addition, Pai is suggesting “accelerated relocation payments” in the amount of of $9.7 billion if they clear the lower 100MHz of the C-band in 46 of the top 50 Partial Economic Areas by September 2021 and the remaining 180MHz of the C-band by September 2023.

In response to these changes, Steve Spengler (pictured), CEO of Intelsat said: “The issuance of the draft order represents a significant milestone in a process that we began in 2017, We look forward to reviewing the draft order, once issued, to place chairman Pai’s comments in full context. We note with appreciation the hard work of all stakeholders to get to this juncture, and the work to come leading up to the Commission’s vote on February 28, 2020.”