Satellite operators form C-Band consortium to protect existing use of spectrum

A group of global satellite operators today announced the formation of an alliance to protect existing use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band while also clearing a portion of the C-Band spectrum for 5G wireless services. The C-Band Alliance, or CBA, which is comprised of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat, wants to wrest some control over the process by which the C-Band will be freed up for terrestrial wireless use.

In July, the FCC voted unanimously to study and seek comment on ways to free up some or all of the 500 megahertz of midband spectrum for 5G. Options include an incentive auction-type approach or a market-based auction by which incumbents would voluntarily make deals to clear spectrum. The consortium formed today represents one way to clear the spectrum and it’s unclear if the FCC will ultimately support the C-Band Alliance’s effort.

The C-Band is currently used by satellite companies to distribute broadcast radio and TV programming to more than 100 million U.S. households and radio listeners. CBA wants to act as a facilitator to clear a portion of C-Band spectrum while also protecting broadcasters and other operators that currently use the spectrum.

The consortium argues that its secondary-market proposal is the fairest and quickest method to clear spectrum for 5G services. The group contends that an FCC spectrum auction could not take place for at least three years and litigation could prolong such an effort.

The development and promotion of 5G wireless services is paramount for the FCC and while the C-Band has been identified as prime spectrum for fixed and wireless broadband, there is an ongoing debate over the impact of sharing the spectrum and whether broadcasters and broadband providers can effectively negate the potential for interference.

The CBA argues that a voluntary, market-based approach will ensure that existing services are protected while also accelerating the technical and commercial implementation of the spectrum clearing process. The group will be led by Bill Tolpegin, currently CEO of OTA Broadcasting.