Eutelsat Could Reconsider C-Band Alliance Exit

Eutelsat, which exited the C-Band Alliance last month saying it wanted to make its own case for freeing up some of that spectrum for 5G, has told the FCC that it would consider re-joining the alliance under certain circumstances.

That is according to a meeting between Rudolphe Belmer, Eutelsat CEO, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai--Belmer met with other FCC commissioners and officials to make the same points.

Belmer told the chairman Eutelsat still supports "the objectives" of expedited deployment of midband (C-band) spectrum for 5G as well as the secondary market approach for freeing it up (private deals rather than an FCC auction).

He also said Eutelsat would be willing to consider re-joining the alliance, "if, among other things, the structure and governance of the CBA and the proceeds allocation could be altered to better represent the interests of all affected stakeholders."

CBA has proposed to act as the facilitator for the transition of C-band spectrum to terrestrial 5G. Belmer said his company backs that, and would definitely agree to rejoin the alliance at least for that transition process.

Eutelsat is also open to considering clearing more than the 200 MHz in the CBA plan, Belmer said, but only after carefully weighing the costs and impact on customers.

Related: ACA Connects with FCC over C-Band Info

The alliance comprises the major satellite operators, all international, that provide network distribution services to broadcasters and cable operators. The companies--Intelsat, Telesat, and SES--are backing a private auction of the spectrum. Cable operators represented by ACA Connects, as well as Charter and the Competitive Carriers Association, are backing a different approach.

Cable operators, who are eyeing midband spectrum for their own 5G plans, are open to freeing up more than 200 MHz (370 MHz and and perhaps all 500) by shifting from satellite delivery to fiber. Broadcasters have been pushing back on that proposal, saying that would put their network feeds at the mercy or any Jane or Joe with an errant backhoe.

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.