Advanced Television

Intelsat, SES successes earn $14bn for industry

October 7, 2022

On October 4th, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-5 Centaur rocket placed two SES C-band satellites (SES-20 and SES-21) into orbit. On October 5th, SpaceX performed a similar task for two Intelsat satellites. The moves are part of an essential replacement of C-band frequencies over the US for the FCC to use by cellular operators for new terrestrial 5G services.

The launches are a key part of a massive $14 billion cash injection into the US satellite industry. The cash comes as compensation and ‘incentive’ payments from the FCC, and has been ploughed into US-based satellite and technology providers. The cash has flowed as a result of the FCC’s $80 billion successful auction of the C-band/5G spectrum.

Steve Collar, SES CEO in a press briefing, said that his two additional C-band satellites were now almost ready for launch. Northrop Grumman is putting the final touches to SES-18 and SES-19. SpaceX will launch the pair on a single rocket later this year or early in 2023.

“The successful launch of SES-20 and SES-21 will allow us to support our customers in delivering high-quality sports and entertainment to tens of millions of US households while delivering on our promise to repurpose spectrum to enable US leadership in 5G,” said Collar. “The second phase of our US C-band clearing activities is fully on track and we are grateful for the hard work of our partners at Boeing and ULA.”

The SpaceX launch, when it happens, will wrap up the SES satellite obligations as far as the FCC is concerned. There are still ground-based tasks to be completed with some cable head-ends still to have their important filters retrofitted and, in some cases, their receiving antennas relocated.

The overall C-band satellite beneficiaries include prime contractors such as Boeing, Thales Alenia, Northrop Grumman, Maxar Technologies and SpaceX and ULA, and hundreds of sub-contractors. Add in the ground-based head-end work, and the sub-contractors probably measure into the thousands.

“It’s generated a significant investment in ground technology for our broadcasters,” Collar said. “It has brought a significant amount of funding to the satellite industry across the board. That’s an important part of this C-band process that is quite often overlooked.”

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