Eutelsat Proposes Up to Half C-Band Proceeds for Treasury

Eutelsat, the satellite operator that broke from the C-Band Alliance to pitch its own proposal for clearing spectrum for 5G, has told the FCC it also supports a market-based auction of 300 MHz spectrum, one overseen by the FCC and with a big chunk of the proceeds going to the Treasury.

But it also doesn't want the FCC to rush a decision on specifically how to reallocate and transition the spectrum to meet an end-of-year deadline.

In meetings with FCC officials this week, according to a document filed at the FCC, Eutelsat execs proposed that half of the money raised in private auction (some estimate the total could approach $60 billion) go to the U.S. Treasury and the other half to satellite operators to cover "reasonable transition costs and financial incentives for itself and its affected customers to complete the transition quickly and cooperatively."

Related: Eutelsat Could Reconsider C-Band Alliance Exit

Eutelsat had told the FCC that treasury payments should be limited, so this establishes that limit at a pretty hefty 50%.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been critical of a private auction because they thought the money should go to the treasury for things like rural broadband deployment and emergency communications. Half that loaf might be enough to turn some heads, or at least Eutelsat is hoping so.

Eutelsat said that when it came to transitioning the spectrum from satellite operators and users to the carriers that win licenses at auction, the FCC could appoint a "competitively neutral transition monitor that could receive transition and evaluating reports, track and report to the Commission on transition progress, and serve as an initial forum for addressing transition disputes."

The C-Band Alliance had proposed that satellite operators administer the transition.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has signaled he wanted to vote on a C-Band item by year's end. Eutelsat is OK with that so long as it is not a rush to judgment.

"Eutelsat has taken note of the chairman’s expressed intent to show progress in this proceeding before the end of this year," the execs told FCC officials. "At the same time, Eutelsat is concerned that the current proposals in the record (there are several including CBS's) do not sufficiently reflect the sort of fair, equitable, transparent, and competitively neutral outcome that would serve the public interest," the said.

"Eutelsat agrees with AT&T that the Commission can and should move forward with an order making clear that 300 MHz of C-band spectrum will be reallocated in the CONUS for terrestrial “5G” services, as well as the general process by which the reallocation will be accomplished, while seeking further comment on the transition plan and the technical and service rules to apply to this spectrum."

The FCC is under pressure to clear midband spectrum in the race with China for 5G supremacy. 

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.