A recent 5G Summit meeting in the US saw the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman Ajit Pai update and outline the FCC’s thoughts on the proposed C-band restructuring by the new Consortium of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat.
Chairman Pai reminded delegates of the FCC’s recent work, saying: “The FCC has been extremely aggressive in making more airwaves available for the commercial marketplace. We’ve conducted the world’s first incentive auction in which spectrum once used by TV broadcasters was sold to wireless companies in order to expand bandwidth and coverage for consumers. We’ve scheduled America’s first two high-band 5G spectrum auctions to begin later this year.”
Pai then addressed the C-band potential, saying: “We’re on track to auction off three more bands next year. We’re exploring how to repurpose mid-band [C-band] spectrum for new wireless applications, from rural broadband coverage to the next generation of Wi-Fi. And we’re working hard with other federal agencies to free up spectrum currently held by the federal government (which for some time has held a majority of lower-band airwaves). The auctions to come will not only deliver more wireless services to more consumers but also raise billions of dollars in non-tax revenue for our nation. And to put these efforts in perspective, we are aiming to free up more spectrum than is currently held by every mobile broadband provider combined”.
Sami Kassab, an equity analyst at investment bank Exane/BNP was, he admitted, concerned by Chairman Pai’s remarks. “Reading these remarks, our first reaction was negative as the reference to repurposing satellite operators C-band for rural broadband coverage is the core proposal of the Google/ Broadband for America Coalition. Satellite operators have proposed a strategy for nationwide repurposing, not just rural areas.”
He added: “We believe there is little interference risk in rural areas (as satellite C band usage is limited) and hence less costs/revenue loss involved for satellite operators. In rural areas, satellite operators have a weaker claim on economic compensation for relinquishing unused spectrum. However, we remain bullish on C-band and would not over-emphasise the FCC statement. We also note that satellite operators have recently announced the formation of the C-band Alliance, the consortium to be in charge of spectrum clearing. With Telesat part of this consortium, all major satellite businesses are now speaking with one voice.”