Star Wars: Strife Between Satcos Over C-Band Money

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Ahead of the FCC’s upcoming vote on C-band auction rules later this month, Intelsat has thrown a monkey wrench into the Commission’s plan. Under the proposal, satellite operators would vacate the lower portion of the band, leaving 280 MHz for wireless, and move to the upper portion of the C-band.

But Intelsat told the agency that the C-Band Alliance of the largest satcos now using the band is no more. 

Intelsat wants a larger share of the $9.7 billion in proposed compensation for clearing C-band spectrum quickly than rivals SES and Telesat.

Intelsat claims it has more C-band revenue, capacity use and satellites in operation across the lower 48 states, and that’s why it should get $5.8 billion to $6.5 billion in accelerated clearing payments, reports SpaceNews. The FCC has proposed $4.85 billion for satcos that meet certain clearing targets. 

Intelsat said the FCC’s order “should reflect that there will be no C-Band Alliance going forward. Where the draft order treats the C-Band Alliance as a single entity, it should instead treat Intelsat, SES, and Telesat as individual companies,” Intelsat wrote in a letter. 

SES asserted the C-Band Alliance’s significance but also threatened to work without, and possibly sue Intelsat, calling the effort an “egregious attempt to capture a greater share of the proposed accelerated relocation payments,” according to the account. Telesat had no comment.

Intelsat’s claim came one day after hedge fund Appaloosa, took a 7.4 percent stake in the satco to compel the company to demand more clearing payments from the FCC. Appaloosa said the proposal gives Intelsat only “token compensation” for the spectrum, while overloading the debt-laden satco with costs it may not be able to finance, reports SpaceNews

In order to get the incentive payments, the satellite companies must clear the lower 100 MHz of the C-band in 46 of the top 50 Partial Economic Areas by September 2021, and the remaining 180 MHz of the C-band by September 2023. If they cannot meet the deadlines, the lower portion of the band must be cleared by September 30, 2025. The satcos must tell the FCC by June 12 if they can meet the accelerated deadlines, agency officials recently told reporters.  

Under the proposal, the satcos would choose a relocation officer to oversee technical aspects of the move. But if they can’t agree, the FCC will choose one for them, an official told Inside Towers earlier this month.

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