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Lump Sum Option May Not Be Best for All

Mark Johnson says the option was a "welcome surprise" but engineers wonder about the catch

Many U.S. radio engineers are asking questions about whether to take a lump sum reimbursement from the FCC’s C-Band migration program. As you’ll recall, the FCC recently published a “cost category schedule” that describes potential expenses and costs that users of earth stations may incur as a result of the C Band repack.

Mark Johnson of LinkUp Communications wrote a blog post recently, cautioning stations about some possible downsides.

We followed up to ask Johnson whether he thinks the proposed reimbursements are fair and what the downsides might be of taking the lump sum option. (The deadline is Sept. 14 after the FCC granted a two-week extension.)

Johnson replied by email:

“Two weeks ago they published the final ‘Cost Catalog,’ and the Lump Sum payment is generous. It also maintains your frequency protection at 4000 MHz to 4200 MHz after the Mid Band Transition is complete. Radio stations see this as a welcome surprise. However they are curious about the ‘catch.’

“Fair is a relative term,” Johnson continued. “If you only need to install a filter and your antenna is in good shape it would be very fair. However if you have to move your antenna and the antenna is old and rusty the ‘Lump Sum’ would not cover the cost of installing a new antenna with a new filter.

“Our team is a proponent of satellite technology for broadcasters. For two years we have been working behind the scenes with SES, Intelsat, Telesat and the SBE to inform broadcasters of this coming 5G tsunami. C-band is often the major content delivery system for commercial and non-commercial broadcasters across the country. Some stations take the majority of their programming from their C-band downlink. Recreating that locally or installing fiber are outrageously expensive options compared to the low cost of a C-band downlink,” he said.

“The downside is that if you had to move or replace your antenna at some point in the process of the 5G rollout you would be responsible for any and all costs to be compliant.

“There are two major things to understand,” Johnson continued. “First there are a serious of deadlines that they must keep on their calendars. Second, stay in touch with the networks who are the actual customers of SES, Intelsat and Telesat, they will be able to keep you informed regarding the timing of your receivers’ dual illumination period and frequency change.”

Johnson added these notable dates:

-Sept. 14, 2020 Earth Station (downlink) owner must decide whether to participate in the satellite owner transition or opt out for lump sum.

-December 08, 2020 —  Auction begins

-December 05, 2021 — Phase 1 deadline: 3700-3820 to be cleared in 46 top PEAs

-December 05, 2023 — Phase 2 deadline: 3700-4000 to be clear nationally

-December 05, 2025 — Sunset of all FSS license protection for 3700-4000

Read related letter to the editor here.

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