Satnews Daily
February 13th, 2020

Forrester Reports: February 21 is D-Day for the FCC's C-Band Decisions

Chris Forrester

Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite is reporting that the FCC’s order on its $9.7 billion proposal will be determined on February 28, with a D-Day meeting of the full Commission.

Prior to that assemblage, the participants and stakeholders have until February 21 to make their comments. There will be an enforced ‘quiet period’ between the 21st and 28th of the month.

Meanwhile, the three main participants will hold their results announcements (Eutelsat on February 14, Intelsat on February 18 and SES on February 25), where some fresh newsflow might be generated. The key players are near-silent other than to stress that hard work is going on behind the scenes.

SES, for example, repeated their comments from a week ago,  and stated, "We are overall pleased with the draft order and thank the FCC for their work. Some elements of the draft order require more discussions with the FCC. This includes, for example, technical parameters, deadlines for clearing, penalties for late clearing or timing of fund availability.”

Intelsat also seems relaxed enough other than to say that due diligence is absolutely necessary and that – as ever – the devil is in the detail. “Each company—including C-band customers—has to read what is proposed and determine if the terms stated for the transition are set up so that we can ensure we can be successful, and as importantly, not impede the services that we continue to provide to our customers throughout the transition,” said Intelsat.

Those extra discussions are part and parcel of the two years of hard work done behind the scenes and reflecting the dialog that the CBA has had with the FCC. Some analysts and commentators have suggested that the FCC’s timetable (the first batch of frequencies to be cleared by September 2021) will be difficult to meet. They are forgetting that just about all of the key technical and conversion proposals have, in fact, come from the CBA and, therefore, come with a high degree of reliability.

Of course, there will be questions from the CBA’s technical and legal experts as they drill down into the small print of the FCC’s 185-pages of highly detailed proposals. But other than the cash now on the table – which is much less than the CBA wanted – most of the work ahead is well understood by the CBA.

The CBA will want everything wrapped by February 28 in order to start the tendering process for those task ahead, not the least of which is ordering up what will probably be the largest and most valuable order for new satellites ever made. At least eight satellites will be needed, probably equally split between Intelsat and SES, and all to be sourced from the U.S.