Intelsat and SES await C-band decision

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Intelsat and SES, the world’s two largest satellite operators, are anticipating a positive decision from the FCC on July 12th to their proposal (with Intel) on the re-shaping of their C-band frequencies over the US.

July 12th will see the FCC commissioners vote on a potential four-step plan that would see the freeing of some C-band frequencies for use by the USA’s 5G cellular telco operators.

What Intelsat and SES want is for the FCC to approve their ‘Transition Facilitator’ scheme, and which would see the satellite operators negotiate and sell their spectrum to the highest bidders.

Some reports suggest the pair could benefit by “billions of dollars” in extra revenues as a result of a decision in their favour.

However, the plan is not wholly supported by the satellite industry. Eutelsat, which has around 5 per cent of the USA’s spectrum through its ownership of the former ‘SatMex’ satellites (now called Eutelsat Americas) is in favour, but Canada-based Telesat has expressed reservations over participating in a consortium led by – and dominated by – Intelsat and SES.

Moving their existing C-band clients onto other slices of satellite spectrum will not be easy or inexpensive. Clients, at the very least, would have to realign their receiving dishes, and that takes time and money.

Nevertheless, Intelsat is enjoying a near-spectacular rise in its good fortunes from investors anticipating the financial windfall likely to follow a positive FCC ruling. July 6th saw its share price rise another 4 per cent, to $17.88. This time last year it was a mere $3.14.

The satellite consortium is also under pressure to release more than a planned 100 MHz of bandwidth (plus a 40-60 MHz protective ‘guard band’). The operators are – in effect – saying to the FCC to start with the 100 MHz scheme and in 36 months or less the cellular players could be using that spectrum, prior to any other re-use being contemplated.

The FCC’s July 12th decision will be watched with some anxiety by other satellite operators around the world, particularly those operating in the Asian and Far Eastern markets, where C-band is the normal transmission method (because of its robustness when dealing with heavy tropical monsoons), and fearful that the FCC’s decision in favour of the SES and Intelsat plan would be the start of a move which places their bandwidth under threat.


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