On Monday, global commercial satellite operator SES S.A. confirmed that it will align itself with an innovative, market-based plan, proposed in FCC documents filed last fall by Intelsat and by chipmaker Intel that would provide wireless broadband carriers with the opportunity to reach commercial agreements with satellite operators who would clear portions of the C-band for “flexible terrestrial mobile use.”

Last October, Intelsat and Intel unveiled their plan in response to an FCC Notice of Inquiry which explores the possibility of providing terrestrial fifthgeneration (5G) wireless networks with access to 3700-4200 MHz C-band spectrum currently used by fixed satellite service (FSS) providers. Citing the protracted nature of most FCC spectrum allocation proceedings, Intelsat and Intel advised the FCC at the time that the best way to enable terrestrial wireless use of the C-band is “to create market-based incentives for FSS space station incumbents to undertake voluntarily the complicated and costly process of clearing portions of the C-band downlink spectrum in specific areas across the country, thus opening the way for coordinated terrestrial use as rapidly as possible.” Toward that end, Intelsat and Intel urged the FCC to permit coprimary terrestrial mobile operations in the C-band pursuant to commercial agreements between FSS operators and the wireless industry.

As specified in the joint FCC filing, Intelsat and other participating FSS operators would work cooperatively to “identify geographic areas of the country where they could undertake the complicated and costly process of clearing portions of the C-band for terrestrial use.” Meanwhile, the market-driven framework through which wireless operators would negotiate with FSS incumbents would ensure that “incumbent FSS operators will be able to facilitate terrestrial mobile use in a manner that fully accounts for their costs,” while “ensuring that incumbent FSS operations will be protected from harmful interference.” Asserting that the plan achieves the FCC’s objectives of expanded C-band access “voluntarily, efficiently and expeditiously,” Intelsat and Intel thus encouraged the FCC to “to take the actions necessary to expeditiously implement this proposal.” 

Building upon the framework proposed last October, SES and Intelsat said Monday that they would establish a consortium which would be open to all satellite operators that deliver service in any part of the lower 48 United States on downlink frequencies in the C-band. According to a joint press release issued by the companies, the consortium “would oversee the 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.” The companies further indicated that they have begun discussing the proposed consortium with the FCC, which has yet to launch rulemaking proceedings on the previously-announced spectrum access plan.

Stressing that the C-band is and “remains a critical component of the U.S. network architecture,” then SES President Karim Michel Sabbagh noted that the mission of the consortium is “to ensure that the expansion of the C-band ecosystem in the U.S. will protect the interests of hundreds of established services and millions of American end-users, while at the same time paving the way for the creation of next-generation 5G terrestrial services.” Meanwhile, as an Intel spokesman welcomed the participation of SES, Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler proclaimed: “with Intelsat and SES now in agreement on major tenets of the framework . . . we are confident in our ability to implement this proposal quickly and efficiently.”