The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Thursday a plan that would provide $9.7bn in compensation to Intelsat, SES SA and other satellite companies if they hit deadlines for leaving the airwaves quickly and another $3.3bn to $5.2bn to pay for costs of making the switch.
The regulator wants to auction spectrum currently used for C-band satellite transmissions to facilitate the launch of new 5G telecoms services. “It’s only fair that every single reasonable cost should be covered,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was quoted as saying.
The C-band represents some 500MHz of spectrum from 3.7 to 4.2 GHz. The FCC argues the satellite companies no longer need the same amount of spectrum and can offer the same services with less bandwidth.
The satellite companies have proposed giving up part of the airwaves they use to beam TV and radio programs to stations and to continue serving customers on airwaves they retain. The swath at issue is known as the C-band, and regulators are eager to free it to carry traffic for fast new 5G networks.
Commenting on the proposal by the FCC, Intelsat CEO Steve Spengler 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.”
In November 2019, the FCC announced its intention to pursue a public auction of C-Band spectrum, which was a significant departure from the market-based construct advocated by the satellite industry. Despite that departure, Intelsat has never wavered in its attempts to bring this critical spectrum to market.