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C-Band Spectrum to Be Cleared on Accelerated Timeline

FCC cites decisions by five big satellite operators

The Federal Communications Commission said the big “repurposing” of C-band spectrum for 5G services will happen on an accelerated timeline.

The commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau got commitments from five eligible satellite operators to meet an accelerated “clearing” timeline that will make way for faster 5G deployment in the 3.7 GHz band.

The commission this winter adopted rules to free up 280 megahertz of spectrum for 5G. The rules required existing satellite operators — including those that support radio and TV broadcast uses — to repack operations from the band’s entire 500 megahertz into the upper 200 megahertz, leaving a guard band and a newly freed up block, the lower 280 megahertz.

[Read: C-Band Plan Aims to Limit Broadcast Disruption]

The FCC provided five space station operators with an opportunity to clear the lower 300 megahertz on an accelerated timeframe in exchange for accelerated relocation payments.

It said Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES, Star One and Telesat committed to accelerated relocation. The five must clear 120 megahertz of spectrum in certain areas by Dec. 5, 2021. In a second phase, they must clear the lower 120 megahertz in the remaining areas, plus an additional 180 megahertz nationwide, by Dec. 5, 2023.

“If the companies fulfill these commitments, they will be eligible for up to $9.7 billion in accelerated relocation payments plus reasonable relocation costs, paid for by the new flexible use licensees,” the FCC explained. “Had the satellite operators not chosen to accept accelerated relocation payments, the deadline for clearing the lower 300 megahertz of the band would have been Dec. 5, 2025.”

[Read: C-Band Repack Could Be Costly for Many Stations]

Chairman Ajit Pai positioned this as a big day for American 5G. “The acceptance of accelerated relocation by all eligible satellite operators vindicates the FCC’s approach for making C-band spectrum available for 5G more quickly. Our initiative will enable this critical mid-band spectrum to be used for new and innovative wireless services that will be delivered to American consumers years ahead of schedule.”

The commission’s C-band auction is scheduled to begin this Dec. 8.