The news that the FCC is to consult on how the USA might exploit the C-band spectrum for 5G which is controlled by Intelsat and SES (and wants responses by June 15th) is potentially excellent news for Intelsat and SES. The two satellite companies between them manage around 90-95 percent of the C-band capacity over the US.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank suggest an auction of C-band capacity could generate around $11 billion in total and some €4 billion for SES. There are “substantial” costs involved in repurposing this capacity.
The FCC’s aim is to measure the “most fertile” source of C-band (3.7 GHz- 4.2 GHz) spectrum. According to a filing from Verizon last November the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum “is the most favorable mid-band spectrum range to introduce 5G services in the US”. Other terrestrial operators have said that the spectrum on offer as the “sweet spot”, but there are dissenting voices.
“Not only does this approach give the satellite industry a multi-billion dollar reward for using spectrum inefficiently, it creates tremendous uncertainty regarding the availability of this spectrum for mobile broadband services and will likely result in inefficient reallocation of spectrum,” argues T-Mobile (in its filing of November 15th last year).
Those dissenters also argue that the FCC should take back “inefficiently” managed C-band spectrum and auction off the bandwidth to the highest bidders, as it would with any other frequencies.
Deutsche Bank says that its view is that Intelsat and SES will win FCC approval to mount a private market solution to solve the problem.