Advanced Television

FCC issues C-band order

March 4, 2020

By Chris Forrester

The FCC issued its formal Order and Public Notices on March 3rd as to how the C-band auction will be managed and the implications for the affected satellite operators.

The 406-item Order is crammed full with legal precedents, but little appears to have changed from the Draft Order issued in February.

The proposed ‘incentive’ payments are the same. Intelsat will qualify for a total of $4,865 billion while SES will receive $3.968 billion. Eutelsat gets $506.9 million, while Telesat’s payment is $344.4 million. StarOne, the only ‘Small Satellite Operator’ which qualifies, gets just $15.1 million.

Additional compensation will be paid for the complex task of relocating client dishes, filters, and new satellites. The FCC, as expected, extended the timetables for clearing the spectrum by a few months.

The FCC says it will appoint an independent body to supervise and act as a ‘Clearinghouse’ and to prevent waste, fraud and abuse as well as to distribute payments and mediate and rule on disputes. The satellite industry plus various other interested stakeholders will each appoint one individual to the nine-person ‘search committee’ for the Clearinghouse, and this will meet no later than March 30th this year.

Intelsat, in its response, stressed that it is a “proudly American company” to counter some of the critics who suggested that all of the incentive payments were going to non-American businesses. Intelsat is headquartered at Tyson’s Corner, just a few miles from the FCC’s own offices and highly visible to anyone who ever shops at the adjacent shopping mall. Intelsat is, however, formally domiciled in Luxembourg for the small nations tax-friendly benefits to satellite operators.

Intelsat’s full statement says: “Throughout this proceeding, Intelsat, a proudly American company, has sought to enable a speedy transition of spectrum to accelerate the deployment of 5G services in the U.S. while protecting the nation’s television and radio distribution system. We will analyze the details of today’s final order, including timing, technical parameters and responsibilities of the various stakeholders, in addition to acceleration incentives and clearing cost reimbursements.  As we do so we will preserve all options to ensure our company is treated fairly and protect our spectrum rights.”

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