SES and Intelsat have agreed to team up in the US and liberate some spectrum in the 3700-4200 MHz C-band, in line with a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put forth in October 2017. Intel has also given its backing to the move. Under the deal, SES will join Intelsat and form a consortium that will keep using spectrum in the band, but also release a specified amount to US broadcasters, media and data companies. The deal includes a commercial and technical framework that will enable mobile operators to quickly access about 100 MHz of nationwide C-band downlink spectrum in the US, and so speed up the deployment of 5G. It will also ensure the distribution of video and audio programming to over 100 million households in the US, plus critical connectivity in rural areas and for emergency situations, as well as services delivered to the US government.
The consortium will be open to all C-band operators providing service to all or some US states. It will oversee governance of the initiative, define and implement the methodology for spectrum clearance, and serve as the sole interface for market-based transactions, with parties interested in deploying terrestrial mobile services in specific portions of the C-band. SES and Intelsat have begun briefing the FCC on this proposal.
Intel welcomed the alignment of Intelsat and SES and said it will continue to support this type of market-based approach. The plan could still face opposition from mobile carriers that would prefer to move all satellite operators off the band entirely, the Wall Street Journal reported. Satellite companies have said that is a non-starter, with the huge investments already in place.
The FCC has yet to launch a rule-making process for the spectrum but is expected to start in the coming months. Satellite companies say they could start moving their operations to a narrow section of the band about two years after that process starts.