Advanced Television

Canada’s C-band plan draws complaints

March 17, 2021

The world’s three-largest satellite operators are complaining to Canada’s government regarding its proposed restructuring of C-band spectrum for 5G adoption. In essence they are saying that they must be compensated for giving up their frequencies over Canada, and any Canadian scheme which only compensates Telesat would be a violation of trade agreements.

The comments come in filings made to Canada’s Ministry of Innovation, Science & Economic Development (ISED) consultation process by Intelsat (itself in bankruptcy reorganisation), SES and Eutelsat. Eutelsat’s statement to ISED is echoed by the other operators, and says: “Eutelsat hereby opposes the unjustified attempt of Telesat Canada to claim for itself and exclusively monetize hundreds of megahertz of terrestrial spectrum […and] that the Telesat proposal is contrary to the best interests of Canadian consumers.”

The ISED proposals recognise Telesat’s importance to the process for the clearing of the 3800 MHz C-band spectrum. Telesat, as the largest user of 3800 MHz, and the “only satellite operator officially licensed to use this spectrum in Canada” (as ISED wrongly states), is proposing to clear, on an expedited basis and in two phases, 400 MHz – or 80 per cent – of the mid-band spectrum so that it can be used for 5G repurposing.

SES argues that it is supplying broadcasting and connectivity to clients in Canada, and – with the other operators – says that as the FCC understood that without compensation for clearing this spectrum then the process of freeing up this spectrum will take much longer.

“Canada cannot simply rely on the US clearance process alone to achieve timely clearance of the 3700-4000 MHz band in Canada by 2023. Additional work and significant associated cost are required in Canada to ensure a timely and orderly clearance of the band. There are Canadian-only broadcast and broadband services, as well as international broadcasting services, in the band that need to be re-packed or migrated separately, as well as thousands of Canadian FSS earth stations for which filters will need to be installed and which might need to be repointed in order to ensure continuity of services. This point was made clear in the submissions of satellite operators and Canadian FSS users in this Consultation,” states SES.

The operators say that they support financial compensation for accelerated clearing along the lines of that agreed with the FCC for the US actions.

SES says it supported the Telesat Proposal to the extent that it proposed a mechanism for FSS operators to receive financial compensation to accelerate the clearing of existing FSS users in the 3700-4000 MHz band. However, due to uncertainty as to how Telesat’s proposal would work, SES prefers a government-led financial compensation mechanism more like the one adopted by the FCC on the basis that it would provide greater certainty and fairness for all affected FSS operators, their customers and possibly for the mobile operators as well.

“SES is concerned that some commentators in the Consultation are under the impression that Telesat is the sole provider of C-band satellite services and is somehow equipped to manage the relocation of all satellite services using this band. This is simply not the case. Telesat is one of several satellite operators sharing the same spectrum band that have made significant investments to provide a wide range of satellite services in Canada. Indeed, several other commenters point out that Telesat is not the sole provider of C-band FSS capacity in Canada (others include SES, Intelsat and Eutelsat), and that it would be unfair to compensate Telesat and Telesat alone for accelerated clearing (or even to appoint Telesat to distribute the compensation or to manage other operators’ customer relocation),” states SES.

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