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Satnews Daily
March 5th, 2020

The Specifics of the FCC's Spectrum Auction + Thanks from SES and Telesat

The Federal Communications Commission's new rules regarding auctioning and making available quickly and efficiently 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for flexible use, including 5G, have been adopted by the agency. According to the organization this is another important step to closing the digital divide, especially in rural areas, and secures U.S.' leadership in 5G.

This action makes a wide swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G through a public auction. As a result, this valuable spectrum will be available quickly, while generating substantial revenue for the United States Treasury. At the same time, the item ensures the continuous and uninterrupted delivery of video programming services and other content to the American people that is currently delivered by satellites using the C-band.

Within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the FCC is allocating the 3.7-4.0 GHz portion of the band for mobile use and 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) will be auctioned by the FCC for wireless services in the contiguous United States. Another 20 megahertz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will serve as a guard band while existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz).

This 280 megahertz of spectrum will be transitioned to flexible use no later than December 5, 2025. Under the Report and Order, eligible space station operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments totaling $9.7 billion if they commit to, and succeed in, clearing the spectrum early.

To be eligible for Phase I payments, operators must clear 120 megahertz of spectrum (3.7-3.82 GHz) in 46 Partial Economic Areas by December 5, 2021. To be eligible for Phase II payments, they must clear the remaining 180 megahertz of spectrum (3.82-4.0 GHz) by December 5, 2023; new flexible-use licensees will be responsible for these payments as well as reasonable relocation costs.

The FCC is creating a Relocation Payment Clearinghouse to manage this process as well as oversee relocation funds available to incumbents. The FCC is also creating a Relocation Coordinator to migrate incumbent Earth stations that receive content from space station operators to ensure uninterrupted service during and following the transition.

The FCC also adopted service and technical rules for the flexible-use licensees and rules that require incumbent fixed microwave services licensees to relocate their point-to-point links to other bands by December 5, 2023.

The action taken by the Commission is a critical step in implementing our comprehensive 5G FAST Plan, as it will rapidly put mid-band spectrum into the hands of innovators and consumers and pave the way for the United States to lead the world in 5G deployment. This action also will meet the Commission’s mandate under the MOBILE NOW Act to identify spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use.

SES and Telesat, as founding members of the C-Band Alliance, have once again thanked Chairman Ajit Pai and the Commission for their leadership and enormous efforts leading up to release of the final C-band Report and Order.

Importantly, in the final order, the FCC made necessary changes to the transition process to ensure effective and efficient clearing while maintaining the general allocation of acceleration payments from the draft order.

Both companies congratulated the Commission on striking the right balance to ensure accelerated access to the spectrum with appropriate incentives, providing an effective transition framework, and adequately protecting critical satellite services for customers and Earth station operators.