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US attempt to grab mid-band spectrum for 5G gets messy

The US telecoms regulator wants satellite companies to hand over 300 MHz of C-band spectrum, but the question of how compensation remains unresolved.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently made a rambling speech about how vital it is to US strategic interests that it lead the world in 5G. Apparently critical to this is a chunk of mid-band spectrum currently owned by a few satellite companies, so he wants to compel them to make it available to operators.

In return he’s going to get the operators to give the satellite companies up to $5 billion to cover the cost of vacating 300 MHz from 3.7-4 GHz and a further $9.7 billion to compensate them for the lost asset so long as they hand it over sharpish.

This is where things get complicated. On one hand it’s distinctly possible that the satellite companies will decide that’s not a fair valuation of their precious spectrum and thus hold out for more, with even the threat of bankruptcy apparently on the table. On the other hand there are people who thing that price is too high and in anyone’s going to extort US operators it should be the US state. And presumably the operators themselves would rather not get rinsed yet again.

“The imminent issuance of the draft order reflects the tireless efforts of many over the past several years to ensure that this critical spectrum comes to market safely, quickly, and efficiently,” said a statement issued by The C-Band Alliance, which represents the interests of Intelsat, SES and Telesat in this matter. “Today’s comments by Chairman Pai are a significant development in this important proceeding. We look forward to reviewing the draft order, once issued, to place Chairman Pai’s comments in full context.”

The danger for the C-Band Alliance is that the current US administration increasingly views 5G as a matter of national security and of strategic geopolitical significance. If Kennedy’s bleat is anything to go by, the US state is warming to the idea of unilaterally appropriating private property in the name of kicking 5G ass. 5G is important, but so are property rights and legal due process. Something’s got to give.

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One comment

  1. Avatar Aurin69 07/02/2020 @ 4:54 pm

    OMG, Really 14.7 billion $ for the ‘C’ Band spectrum, come on get real it is never the Telco’s that pick this up thru the twisted auction process concocted by Ajit Pai and the FCC, it is always the poor consumer that pays for this down the line in extortionate fees for some thing that should be FREE-TO-ALL anyways.

    I all spectrum was licensed as Listen before Transmit, and there was a SINGLE TELCO GRID then all this CR*P of Auctions would be unnecessary as Mobile users could have FREE-GLOBAL-ROAMING in ALL Countries, just like you do not pay for electricity when you go on Holiday, why pay to receive calls – it’s archaic that the TELCOM is over 150 years out of date compared to Electric GRID.

    Come On #MWC2020 get it together the Consumer should be at the Heart of the mobile network not ARPU !

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