C–Band in the News Again

by Patrick Gannon

Mar 20, 2018

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In October, 2017 Intelsat and Intel put forward a proposal to the FCC designed to set up a framework that would allow
MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) to leverage unused C-band capacity in the US in order to expand deployment of 5G
services. This proposal would provide about 100 MHz of downlink C-band spectrum in the US.

The current proposal expands on an October 2017 proposal by Intelsat and Intel, designed to create a technical and
commercial framework enabling wireless operators to quickly access this C-band capacity across the US, in order to hasten the
deployment of 5G services.  5G is a next generation wireless service building upon the current 4G infrastructure
that powers much of our wireless networking today.  5G is slated to provide a large increase in capacity and speed,
and 100 MHz of C-band capacity would be just the ticket to kick things off.

The current proposal does not differ significantly from the first, but it provides more details. 
Having SES join the consortium of Intel and Intelsat, is important in the development of consensus for a unified voice from the industry. 
SES has a lot of C-band capacity over the US, so its participation is most noteworthy.  While it might seem odd for C-band providers
to join in on this proposal, the alternative is a state of confusion and uncertainty.  Large commercial clients will
not be interested in signing long term contracts if they feel that the capacity might be jerked out from underneath
them.  Banding together, it is hoped, will provide a framework that satellite providers and MNOs can depend on and
abide by, such that the uncertainty is removed.

When the announcement was first made in October 2017, the industry wasn’t overly excited, with some satellite
executives referring to the proposal as “ridiculous” or “divisive.”  The consortium members however are saying the
reaction is more positive.  Intelsat noted that the most negative comments came from providers outside the US with
little stake in the US market.  Their concern may be that once approved in the US, other countries might also try to
grab C-band capacity.

Working together with Congress on regulatory legislation to ensure stability and
certainty in the path forward is to everyone’s advantage.  Intelsat, SES and Intel will present constructive
proposals that protect satellite providers as well as give 5G the boost that this capacity provides.  SES and
Intelsat, the two largest C-band providers over the US, see it as a way to give certainty to their customers for the
wide array of services provided.

Putting controls in place, SES emphasizes, benefits the satellite
operators, hundreds of service providers, millions of television viewers, and ultimately the US economy through the
advancement of better communications.  The FCC requested a solution for C-band, and the players are coming together,
being proactive and working together to propose agreements that can be quickly implemented, show fast results, and
most of all, create certainty for all concerned.

For satellite providers, it means giving up some
capacity, but it secures a large portion of the C-band spectrum, protecting an existing and well-functioning
industry model.  It gives large commercial customers the stability and certainty they must have in order to sign
long term contracts.  At the same time, it contributes to the rollout of 5G, which is of great importance to the
country.  Intelsat and SES note that this effort is custom made for the US and is not designed to be exported to
other countries, which in many cases, have already made arrangements to make spectrum available to MNOs.

Another advantage noted, is that for the first time, satellite access is being included in 5G standards.  Many
satellite technology vendors have been lobbying to become part of the 5G movement and to ensure that satellite is
fully integrated with the new technology.  This is an important first step in that direction.

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