FCC readies C-band auction

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Next week sees the start of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) auction of satellite C-band spectrum in the US. Satellite operators are in the process of clearing a total of 280 MHz of spectrum in the C-band (3.7-3.98 GHz) for repurposing for 5G use.

Most observers expect the auction to generate billions of dollars to eventually help provide a rapid rollout of 5G cellular telephony across the contiguous United States.

The FCC’s 241-page procedure (for its Auction 107) was formally published on August 7th. The FCC has subdivided the spectrum and its terrestrial reach into 5648 licenses (into Partial Economic Areas – PEAs). Applications have been made into the FCC’s system since September 22nd with prospective bidders having to make upfront pre-payments by November 2nd.

The first tranche of spectrum must be cleared a year from now (by December 5th 2021) and each of the satellite operators say they are on track to meet the deadline. The second key date is December 5th 2023 and a final tranche by December 5th 2025.

The satellite operators are set to receive a total of $9.7 billion as compensation and “accelerated payments” for giving up their frequencies, plus additional sums for the replacement of satellites and ground infrastructure.

Intelsat will receive about $4.85 billion. SES gets about $3.99 billion. Eutelsat $468 million and Telesat about $375 million. However, Intelsat and SES are currently discussing the precise amounts, and SES is claiming $1.8 billion from Intelsat in a legal action over the allocation of cash. Intelsat is firmly denying the claim.

The auction starts on December 8th.


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