Intelsat, SES propose joint use of C-band by satellite, terrestrial mobile operators

SES antenna (SES)
Satellite operators say their proposal aims to protect the extensive services they provide to broadcasters, media and data companies. (SES)

Citing a desire to speed the deployment of 5G services, SES and Intelsat are proposing that the U.S. set up a framework whereby wireless operators would be able to gain quick access to about 100 megahertz of nationwide C-band downlink spectrum.

The proposal builds on a model first put forth by Intelsat and Intel last year. The current framework calls for the creation of a consortium, which would be open to all satellite operators delivering services in the C-band downlink frequencies in any part of the lower 48 United States. The consortium would oversee the governance of the initiative, define and implement a plan for spectrum clearance and serve as the interface for market-based transactions with parties interested in deploying mobile services in specific portions of the C-band.

SES and Intelsat said they have started briefing the FCC on the proposal. Intel is also on board with it.

RELATED: Intelsat, Intel propose way for mobile industry to use C-band for 5G

CTIA was not immediately available for comment.

A representative at Intelsat confirmed that along with SES, they have met with the wireless community in a number of “constructive” meetings.

The satellite and terrestrial wireless industries have been battling over spectrum for years and the desire for more 5G spectrum has only further ratcheted up the conflict. Wireless stakeholders say too much spectrum has gone unused while the satellite players say not only are they using the C-band every day to deliver services, their need for spectrum is also on the rise.

“The C-band is and remains a critical component of the U.S. network architecture,” said SES President and CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh in a press release. “Space and ground segment operators have invested billions of dollars in U.S. C-band networks and connectivity and generate important value out of it. It is therefore our duty and mission to protect the C-band in the U.S. from any form of disruption and preserve its use.”

Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler said their priority continues to be creating a framework that provides certainty and protects the quality and reliability of the services they provide to media, network services and government customers.

“Our proposed market-based solution provides a speedy resolution to the U.S. objective of accelerating deployment of 5G services,” he said in the release. “With Intelsat and SES now in agreement on major tenets of the framework and with the support of Intel, we are confident in our ability to implement this proposal quickly and efficiently, ultimately to the benefit of American consumers and the U.S. economy.”

Spengler told the Wall Street Journal that it’s not really feasible to move the satellite operators to another band after they’ve already made huge investments. Sabbagh told the publication that he also is not persuaded that there is a better path than the one they’ve created.