CBA D-Day on Feb 28

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There are times when our regulators need both a tough hide and the wisdom of Solomon as they get to rule on complex demands. Making a wrong decision could prove to be a nightmare. Even making the right decision might lead to severe complaints and long-lasting legal problems. For those satellite operators controlling spectrum over the US the FCC’s decisions in regard to C-band capacity have an immense impact.

February 28th will see the FCC vote on freeing up 300 MHz (280 + a 20 MHz guard band) of C-band satellite spectrum for use by the 5G industry.

They will decide on the final shape of their offer to incentivise the operators to free up the spectrum fairly speedily in order to win those incentives, and whether to proceed with an FCC-managed auction at the end of this year.

Then, just over a week from now in Washington DC (on March 10th) the chief executives of the key players will sit on a Satellite 2020 panel and discuss the state of the industry.

Normally the gathering is all sweetness and light and despite the obvious competition that exists at any time politeness rules the day. That may be very different this year, and the panel could be marketed as a PPV event with the various participants dressed as high-ranking boxers in a ring slugging it out for physical and commercial dominance.

The bitter rows over C-band have brought this situation to a very divisive head, especially for the key participants Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat. Each is promising their CEO’s will be present, alongside Mark Dankberg (Viasat) and Pradman Kaul (Hughes). Perhaps Dankberg and Kaul will act as ‘seconds’, or perhaps Telesat’s Dan Goldberg will act as an honest broker and try and bring calm and sanity to the debate. Remarkably Telesat has stayed silent these past weeks on the dispute and wisely staying aloof from the battleground.

However, there’s one major fear for the FCC and the satellite operators: that Intelsat will find the FCC’s overall offer for them to be of such little value that they will – at some point – declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and possibly bring the whole scheme to its knees.

Sometimes the regulators deserve their pay. Let’s hope that Solomon is sitting on their shoulders.


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