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Satnews Daily
October 28th, 2019

Forrester Reports: C-Band Alliance Seem Enthusiastic Regarding Spectrum Plans — Eutelsat's Satellite Woes

Chris Forrester.

Barely a year ago the family of C-Band Alliance members (Intelsat, SES, Telesat, Eutelsat) were firm and repeatedly stated that they were prepared only to free up (in other words, sell) 180 MHz of their U.S. spectrum for use by 5G players.

Now, across the board, they seem enthusiastic about freeing up 300 MHz of spectrum.

SES CEO Steve Collar, speaking during his Q3 results presentation to analysts on October 25th, stated that the CBA was “very focused” on looking to make available 300 MHz of bandwidth, as reported by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite.

Collar said, “We’re entering an important phase for the repurposing of C-Band in favour of 5G in the US. It’s a truly complex endeavor that the CBA is working incredibly hard and with strong results to show for it. The Chairman of the FCC has again reiterated his belief that there’ll be results to show for all of these efforts in the fall.”

He continued, "The C-Band Alliance has made really strong progress in the outreach and engagement with all stakeholders, our customers, the potential acquirers of spectrum, the FCC and the Hill. And it really feels to me like we’re getting towards a phase of action. You’ll see plenty of activity I think in the coming weeks to bring all of the various settlements involved to closure, reinforcing the fact that CBA approach is not only the quickest part of lendable spectrum for 5G broad, potential 5G network builders, but also the only way that does so while protecting incumbent users provides benefit to the U.S. treasury, and is fair and balanced for all stakeholders.

Collar then added, “We are on record of saying we can clear 200 megahertz in 18 to 36 months. The FCC is on record of saying that they want more. And a number of the commissioners have talked about 300 megahertz being the target. We’ve been working very hard, I would say, over the last sort of 4 to 6 weeks intensively with our customers on a plan to get beyond 200 megahertz. Nothing to say on that right now. But as soon as we do have something to say, you will hear about it, and it’s something that we are very, very focused on.”

Collar was reluctant to explain how the proceeds of the C-band auction would be spent. “We’ve also talked about a couple of priorities when it comes to any proceeds from C-Band. I think our first priority will be some modest deleveraging."

Also being reported by Chris is that Eutelsat is expected to confirm that its brand-new satellite, Eutelsat 5 West B craft, may be a total loss. Eutelsat is due to reveal its latest (Q1) set of results on October 30th and will update the market with the precise state of health of the craft.

The satellite has suffered a failure of one of its solar arrays, and without the power the array is designed to provide, the Northrop Grumman-built satellite is impossible to function as designed.  The other array is working correctly. It is possible that ground-based technicians will be able to deploy the “stuck” array, and similar events in the past have been resolved satisfactorily.

Although the satellite is fully insured for $192.4 million, there is another probable loss in that the craft was also carrying an extra payload in the shape of the European Commission’s (EGNOS) Global Navigation Satellite System’s Galileo GPS overlay.  This particular aspect of the craft is worth a contracted €102 million over a planned 18 year lifetime.

As to Eutelsat’s 5-WB loss, the satellite was expected to continue generating at least €30 million annually from its 5 degree West location. Eutelsat is also expected to explain how it will replace the planned capacity, perhaps by moving an underused satellite to the 5 degrees West position.