CBA Says C-Band's 280 MHz is Worth Up to $77 Billion

The C-Band Alliance, comprising incumbent satellite users of that midband spectrum, is telling the FCC that the 280 MHz of satellite spectrum the FCC wants to auction for next-gen terrestrial wireless broadband (5G) is worth up to $77 billion. It also said the cost of clearing 300 MHz (the 280 MHz, plus 20 MHz for a guard band) would be about $3.3 billion. 

Related: CBA Wants FCC to Show It the Money 

That came in filings to the FCC meant to demonstrate the value of the spectrum its members have been "operating" for four decades. 

Networks use the C-band to deliver programming feeds via satellite to cable systems and TV and radio stations. 

CBA argues the FCC needs to compensate satellite users for that spectrum, most recently saying that the FCC should require bidders on the cleared spectrum to agree to pay satellite users for exiting early.   

"[I]f the U.S. government determines it to be in the public interest to push out incumbent users who for decades have built their businesses around this spectrum, then fairness and the law dictate these important rights-holders should receive fair value for their efforts in expediting the clearing of this spectrum and making it available far more quickly than would otherwise be possible," CBA told the FCC. 

The C-Band Alliance, representing foreign companies providing those satellite programming services, first wanted the spectrum to be repurposed in marketplace negotiations with wireless companies. When that looked like it might not happen, they offered to provide spectrum for an interoperable 5G network as part of that plan. When that didn’t fly and FCC chair Ajit Pai signaled there would be an auction, they suggested that would be an illegal taking of their spectrum and threatened to sue. 

Related: Senate Commerce Approves C-Band Auction Bill

Now, with the auction all but a done deal, the alliance is saying the FCC should make paying them for the spectrum above and beyond moving expenses a quid pro quo for participating in any auction.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.