Eutelsat lays out C-band strategy

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Eutelsat, which is also involved in the restructuring of C-band frequencies over the US, has confirmed to the FCC that it will not be buying a dedicated C-band satellite to serve its North American clients.

Eutelsat back in June had cautioned the FCC that an additional satellite might be needed – at a cost of about $150 million – but now says in its transition plan that it will rationalise its US capacity so that its existing satellites will be sufficient.

“Eutelsat now expects that prudent management of capacity and demand for C-band satellite services during and after the transition will allow it to provide ‘substantially the same or better service to incumbent earth station operators’ without launching any new C-band satellites,” Eutelsat told the FCC.

Eutelsat has four operational satellites that are serving US clients: Eutelsat 117 West A, Eutelsat 115 West B and Eutelsat 172B.  Eutelsat 113 West A is also active but will be retired in 2023 and not replaced. Two other satellites serve the market, including 117 West B. Eutelsat’s craft all operate under its Eutelsat American subsidiary and reflect its acquisition of SatMex in 2013.

Eutelsat has revised downward its likely expenses, at just $14.9 million in supplying Earth station modifications, re-tuning, filters and clearing costs. Those costs will be reimbursed by the FCC and Eutelsat will also get the incentive bonus payment from the FCC.

Eutelsat says it has to handle 536 antennas at 291 sites of which 476 antennas will need to be repointed with 60 to be retuned.

To make its transition as painless as possible, Eutelsat says it will dual-emit any programming/broadcasts carried on the ‘old’ frequency as well as on the ‘new’ frequency. This exercise will cost a total of $5.9 million for the three months of dual illumination plus a further $468,320 for equipment.

However, Eutelsat (along with EchoStar, Hughes Network Systems and Inmarsat) has had a dig at rival SES and its satellite orders. It asks that the FCC “requires each such subsidized satellite to serve the CONUS for the duration of its useful life, and that the Commission specifically clarifies that the costs of spare satellites and “backup” launches are ineligible.  Eutelsat continues to urge the Commission to act on that Petition, in order to bring greater clarity and consistency to the process under which C-band satellite operators are developing these Transition Plans.”

“Eutelsat now expects that prudent management of capacity and demand for C-band satellite services during and after the transition will allow it to provide ‘substantially the same or better service to incumbent earth station operators’ without launching any new C-band satellites,” said Eutelsat to the FCC.


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