FCC Chairman Pai Announces Plan for C-Band Auction

For several years the FCC has eyed the C-Band for new 5 G services. NYSBA and the NAB have lobbied the Commission in an effort to protect our use of the C-Band. Radio and television stations use C-Band earth station satellite receivers to access both network and syndicated programs.  (Broadcasters and other fixed satellite services currently use 3.7 Ghz to 4.2 Ghz). Over the past year there has been significant controversy over whether the C-Band should be subject to a public auction.

The FCC has announced its plan to auction a significant portion of the C-Band.  The plan also outlines a process for relocating existing users. Here are the basics:

  • Auctioned C Band Frequencies: Under the plan 3.7 GHz to 3.8 GHz (a total of 280 MHz) would be auctioned an made available for “flexible use” and 5G services
  • Relocate Existing Users: Existing users, including broadcasters, would be moved and repacked into the upper portion of the band (4.0 to 4.2 GHz)
  • Guardband: To avoid interference there would be a 20 MHz guardband established at 3.98 GHz to 4.0 GHz.

The FCC set a deadline of September 2025 for clearing all 280 MHz.  It gives satellite operators the opportunity to clear the lower portion of the C-band on an accelerated timeline, thus advancing the national priority of making spectrum available for 5G deployment more quickly.  Incumbent fixed service licensees in the contiguous United States would relocate their point-to-point links to other bands by September 30, 2023

Importantly, the winning bidders would be required to reimburse existing satellite operators including broadcasters for relocation costs.  The plan would cover reasonable relocation costs of the C-band’s current users through reimbursement by the winning bidders in the C-band auction.  The FCC would establish a Relocation Payment Clearinghouse to manage the intake, payout, and auditing of relocation funds. The Commission would also establish a Relocation Coordinator to coordinate the transition between satellite operators and incumbent earth stations to ensure uninterrupted service during and following the transition

The pressure on the FCC to move forward with 5G technologies in the C-Band has been tremendous. It has taken on international implications as it touches on technological competition with China. From our perspective we want:

  1. To make sure we continue to have access to network and syndicated programming services that are free from interference, and
  2. Receive reimbursement for any costs incurred in relocating to different C Band frequencies.

As with most relocation plan, the devil is in the final details.  We will be keeping a close watch on this proceeding.

To see the FCC’s proposed plan click HERE.


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