FCC: “Intelsat & SES will be paid for C-band spectrum”

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An FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, has confirmed that Intelsat and SES (and by implication Telesat of Canada and Eutelsat) will be compensated for releasing their C-band spectrum to auction.

“They’re going to be compensated in some way,” Rosenworcel, one of five FCC commissioners, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “It has to be an incentive that makes them return the maximum amount of airwaves.”

While the FCC’s Chairman Ajit Pai says that the FCC will itself hold the spectrum auction the FCC has not explained the mechanics or detail, or timetable, for the auction. That news is likely to emerge in January.

The US Congress also has views on how the auction should be managed, and how much of the proceeds should be paid over to the US Treasury. “Congress has a lot of thoughts about just how we manage that, that spectrum band, and I think the FCC is going to have to spend some time looking over that and figuring out how to proceed,” Rosenworcel added.

However, there are hurdles ahead. The C-Band Alliance issued a veiled threat a week ago following on from Chairman Pai’s Tweet that the FCC would be handling the auction. ““The [FCC] announcement does not address the critical involvement of the incumbent satellite operators in executing the complex task of reconfiguring and transitioning their networks. Nor does the announcement address the fundamental modification of the rights afforded by the existing FCC licenses held by the CBA members which would be required under a public auction approach”.

While few expect the FCC to reverse its decision there’s still plenty of scope for final adjustment.

The spectrum is needed to help the growth and take-up of 5G cellular telephony.


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