Tech & Telecom Law

Intelsat, SES Unveil Design for Private Sale of 5G Airwaves (2)

June 11, 2019, 3:15 PM; Updated: June 11, 2019, 8:34 PM

A satellite company consortium including Intelsat S.A. and SES S.A. has pitched a detailed framework to the Federal Communications Commission for a private airwaves auction for carriers including Verizon Communications Inc.

The group, which also includes Telesat and Eutelsat S.A., unveiled their proposal for airwaves in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, known as the C-band, to Federal Communications Commission officials in meetings June 6 and June 7, according to an FCC filing.

The FCC is weighing whether to allow the satellite companies to auction off rights to the spectrum, ideal for next-generation 5G networks, and pocket what may be tens of billions of dollars in proceeds, or to hold a public auction and send the revenue to the U.S. Treasury.

Carriers could bid on “packages of spectrum that best suit their needs” and the satellite operators could announce winning bidders within two to four weeks after the auction begins, the companies said in their filing.

The proposed “auction is designed to allow successful participation by entities of every size, from large national bidders to mid-sized regional bidders to small rural bidders,” the companies said.

Auctionomics, a firm that has designed some of the FCC’s public spectrum auctions, drafted the plans for the satellite companies’ proposed private auction sale. The satellite companies currently use the airwaves to transmit TV programming to about 100 million U.S. households.

Intelsat jumped 7.2 percent, the most since April 4, to $19.40 at the close in New York. SES rose 1.6 percent to 14.19 euros in Paris.

Borrowing From FCC

The private auction design is based on “the FCC’s extremely successful secondary market policies and draws from the most effective auction policies employed by the FCC and other countries,” the satellite operators said in their filing.

The satellite companies say their proposal would make some C-band airwaves available to wireless carriers in 18 months, and more frequencies would be ready in 36 months, faster than holding a public auction, while protecting TV programming from signal interference.

T-Mobile US Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. are backing a public auction, which they say could free up more C-band frequencies for wireless use than the satellite companies’ proposal.

The FCC in May put out a notice seeking more public feedback on the private sale and public auction proposals. The deadline for initial comments is July 3, and reply comments are due July 18.

(Updated market information in seventh paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Reid in Washington at jreid@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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