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FCC Speeds Up C-Band Clearing for 5G

(Image credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that the opening of C-band spectrum for 5G services will go ahead on an accelerated timeline, having received commitments from all eligible satellite operators to meet the necessary deadlines.

When the FCC announced the C-band transition plan in February that require existing satellite to operators repack their operations in the C-band’s upper 200 MHz—leaving 280 MHz for flexible use and a 20 MHz guard band—it provided five eligible space station operators serving the U.S. the opportunity to clear the lower 300 MHz on an accelerated timeline in exchange for accelerated relocation payments.

In a public notice, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has said that the five operators—Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES, Star One and Telesat—have committed to the plan and that they have met the 80% threshold for clearing commitments, officially triggering the accelerated timeline.

Under the new timeline, the operators must clear 120 MHz of spectrum in 46 Partial Economic Areas by Dec. 5, 2021. The second phase will require them to clear the lower 120 MHz in the remaining PEAs, plus an additional 180 MHz nationwide, by Dec. 5, 2023. If these deadlines are met, the operators will be eligible to receive $9.7 billion in accelerated relocation payments plus reasonable relocation costs, which will be paid for by the new flexible use licensees. The original timeline would have required the operators to clear the lower 300 MHz by Dec. 5, 2025.

“This is a big day for American leadership in 5G and for American consumers and businesses,” said Pai. “The acceptance of accelerated relocation by all eligible satellite operators vindicates the FCC’s approach for making C-band spectrum available for 5G more quickly. Our initiative will enable this critical mid-band spectrum to be used for new and innovative wireless services that will be delivered to American consumers years ahead of schedule. The FCC’s work on the C-band is an important part of its 5G FAST plan, a comprehensive strategy to promote American leadership in 5G. This is a national priority because it means millions of jobs, billions of dollars in investment, innovation on our shores and stronger economic growth. I’m grateful to my fellow Commissioners, the agency’s excellent staff and external stakeholders for helping us reach this major milestone.”

The C-band auction is currently scheduled to take place on Dec. 8, 2020.