5G spectrum auction imperiled by satellite operators’ hunger for money
The C-Band Alliance (CBA) appears to be falling apart. And that could spell trouble for companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, which are hoping to get their hands on spectrum currently used by CBA members.
At the heart of the issue is 5G technology in the US. American cellular operators have loudly complained that they don’t have enough midband spectrum to sufficiently build out high-speed 5G networks – unlike operators in other countries like China, which are already heavily using midband spectrum for 5G.
The members of the CBA – satellite companies Intelsat, SES and Telesat – currently control vast swaths of midband spectrum in the US; that spectrum that sits in the C-Band. The US government is hoping to quickly move them off that spectrum so it can be reallocated for 5G through an auction.
The issue is so important that the chairman of the FCC – the US government agency charged with managing the nation’s spectrum assets – has proposed giving current C-Band users a total of $9.7 billion in “accelerated relocation payments” to quickly move off the spectrum within the next few years.
But some – not all – of the members of the CBA want more money.
Intelsat breaks ranks
In a new filing with the FCC, CBA member Intelsat said it should get up to 67% of the $9.7 billion instead of the 50% that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed. “The incentive amount identified for Intelsat … should be increased,” the company wrote.
However, SES said that Intelsat is being greedy. “SES is disappointed by Intelsat’s eleventh-hour attempt to renounce its commitments made to other CBA members and the commission over the course of this proceeding, in aid of a transparent and egregious attempt to capture a greater share of the proposed accelerated relocation payments. Having worked collaboratively for a long period of time on this project, this sudden and recent change in direction by Intelsat is both disappointing and legally indefensible,” the company said in a statement. “SES will hold Intelsat responsible under its commitments.”
SES is eligible for up to $4 billion under Pai’s C-Band plan.
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