SES completes early clearing of C-band

SES today announced the FCC has validated the certification of SES’s Phase II accelerated C-band clearing and relocation activities, making way for mobile operators to use the spectrum for 5G.

For Luxembourg-based SES, the certification means it is now eligible to receive an accelerated relocation payment of $2.99 billion. SES expects the payment to be made in Q4 2023.

SES noted that it received the FCC validation of its Phase I accelerated C-band clearing activities in 2021 and secured the first accelerated relocation payment of $1 billion in the subsequent year. Under terms of the FCC’s C-band clearing agreement, mobile operators who bought C-band spectrum in the auction that concluded in 2021 are on the hook to pay the satellite operators’ early relocation fees.

Satellite operators in the lower C-band were given a deadline of December 5, 2023, to move out of the spectrum. But it is no small feat, as SES outlined in a press release what was involved in its Phase II activities, including:  

  • Launching five new satellites to continue enabling the broadcast delivery of digital television to nearly 120 million TV homes, as well as providing critical data services, in the upper 200 MHz of the C-band (4000-4200 MHz).
  • Repacking all of its C-band downlink services in the continental United States (CONUS) into the upper 200 MHz of the C-band and relocating associated incumbent Earth stations throughout CONUS into the upper 200 MHz of the C-band.
  • Making equipment changes to associated incumbent Earth stations and providing passband filters to block signals from the 3700-4000 MHz band to all associated incumbent Earth stations in CONUS.
  • Modifying telemetry, tracking and control operations to receive telemetry above the 4000 MHz band and completing gateway consolidation to its Brewster and Hawley facilities.

In a statement, SES CEO Ruy Pinto said the company is proud to meet the FCC’s ambitious Phase II deadline ahead of schedule. 

“It speaks to the remarkable work and caliber of the SES team, our trusted partners, and our network of vendors over the last five years,” Pinto said. “Beyond executing a major strategic project that enables the FCC to usher in the next generation of 5G connectivity and innovation in the United States, I am pleased to say we have placed our customers’ interests first and carefully transitioned our customers to ensure they will be able to continue delivering uninterrupted C-band broadcast and radio services to millions of American homes.”

Satellite companies initially resisted a public auction of the spectrum they use to enable broadcast radio and TV programming across the U.S. Ultimately, the C-band auction raked in more than $80 billion for the U.S. government.

SES and Intelsat are the two biggest satellite players in the U.S. C-band. Intelsat in a quarterly update earlier this year told the FCC it was on track to meet the Phase II milestone to clear the lower 300 MHz of the C-band spectrum to enable 5G by December 5, 2023.