Pai: FCC “Vindicated” as Big Satcos Agree to Quick C-Band Move

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UPDATE FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Monday said the repurposing of C-band spectrum for 5G services will move forward on an accelerated timeline. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau secured commitments from all eligible satellite operators to meet a faster clearing timeline that will make way for faster 5G deployment in the 3.7 GHz band.

Inside Towers reported Intelsat, SES and Telesat told the agency by the May 29 deadline they would clear the lower portion of the C-band quickly and move to the higher portion of the band. Eutelsat and Star One also chose accelerated relocation. They wanted to qualify for a share of as much as $9.7 billion in incentive payments, in addition to a share of another $3.3 billion to $5.2 billion the feds would reimburse them for moving costs. 

The bureau said the 80 percent threshold for clearing commitments has been met.  Specifically, these companies must first clear 120 megahertz of spectrum in 46 Partial Economic Areas by December 5, 2021. In a second phase, they must clear the lower 120 megahertz in the remaining PEAs, plus an additional 180 megahertz nationwide, by December 5, 2023. If the satcos didn’t choose the faster move, their deadline to clear the lower 300 MHz of the band would have been December 5, 2025. Pai said the acceptance of accelerated relocation by all eligible satellite operators “vindicates the FCC’s approach” for making C-band spectrum available for 5G more quickly. “Our initiative will enable this critical mid-band spectrum to be used for new and innovative wireless services that will be delivered to American consumers years ahead of schedule.”     

The Commission still plans to begin the auction of C-band licenses for wireless use this December.

The announcement does not acknowledge that smaller satellite companies are fighting the FCC C-band order in federal appeals court and at the agency. Satellite transmission company PSSI Global Services LLC and small satellite operators ABS Global Ltd., Empresa Argentina de Soluciones Satelitales S.A., Hispamar Satélites S.A. and Hispasat S.A. seek a stay of the order pending federal review.

They contend the agency had no authority to modify their licenses, limiting them to the higher portion of the band instead of the full band they now occupy. They also say, unlike larger satcos, they would not be fully reimbursed for their moves.

Public comments on their petitions were due yesterday.

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