C-Band a hot topic at Satellite 2019

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Analysts from investment bank Jefferies held a 7-hour series of VIP meetings with key industry executives at the giant Satellite 2019 show, and the bank’s subsequent comments from analysts Giles Thorne and Sebastian Patulea make fascinating reading.

Two topics dominated their meetings: “A greater interest in High Throughput Satellites/LEO than in previous years, [and] a bullish inquisition into the C-band endgame.”

Given its importance the bank reported on the evident “confidence” in a positive outcome as far as the C-Band Alliance is concerned and the CBA’s scheme for a reallocation of 200 MHz of satellite bandwidth over the US.

“The hallmark of the responses [from Intelsat and SES] was resolute confidence, and a confidence born not just out of evident vested interests, but frankly, an intellectually honest account of the CBA proposal compared to what is at stake (US national competitiveness) and what the alternatives are to the CBA proposal (none seek to protect the incumbent use case). We note a large amount of important nuance: the consortium agreement is proportionally fair to each member and resolves potential conflicts of interest for the most likely outcomes; the [FCC] Chairman hasn’t revealed his position in meetings, but has been very engaged; indeed, it’s low risk, given the level of iterative engagement with the FCC, that the Order that comes forward is a negative (or positive) surprise,” said Jeffries.

The bank added: “The CBA concedes that the FCC will want / need oversight, the hope is that such oversight doesn’t overtly impinge on the core market-based mechanism for clearing and allocated the spectrum; reiterated 2H19 timing; CBA has been active in informing those members of Congress that have come forward with concerns, though it’s much harder to gauge Congress’ position than it is the FCC’s.”

As far as the interest in HTS/LEO events are concerned, the bank says that the low earth orbiters have now moved closer to fruition following meetings with LeoSat and OneWeb. “Indeed, the OneWeb CEO described the business, following the Mar-2019 funding round, as now “inevitable”. The different approaches of the two operators in question a sign of the fundamental challenge of HTS-LEO: to create a value proposition that is sufficiently differentiated, not just from other HTS-LEO projects, but also from incumbent HTS-GEO. A clear focus today on how latency can / will be the anchor, though it remains an open debate as to whether the total cost of ownership can be brought down enough to allow LEO’s latency superiority to shine through. HTS-LEO will become an ever hotter topic of debate.”


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