By Kurt Riegelman, Intelsat’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing In the few weeks since we announced that we partnered with Intel Corporation to submit a creative, market-based, joint-use C-band proposal to the FCC, we have had many discussions with our broadcast customers regarding our vision of joint-use of the spectrum by both satellite and mobile operators. One of the most common questions we have received from our customers is how this joint-use might impact their delivery of media content over the C-band spectrum via satellite, while parts of the spectrum would also be made available to mobile operators for 5G deployments in certain major U.S. city centers. Let’s remember, 61 million homes receive programming through 1,500 channels transported through C-band spectrum through 5,000 cable head-ends. We developed this new, proactive solution in response to clear indications that the FCC is considering mandating shared use of the spectrum by satellite and U.S. terrestrial mobile operators. Our proposal, first and foremost, encapsulates Intelsat’s top priority to provide our customers with regulatory certainty, reliable connectivity and quality satellite services, while at the same time efficiently addressing the need of 5G operators in the U.S. to utilize C-band downlink spectrum. Our customers should be confident that we will vigorously defend – and will not compromise on – these principles for the following reasons:
  • Certainty – The FCC’s strict regulation of radio spectrum in the U.S. has enabled numerous companies and entire industries to flourish in ways unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Machines running the gamut from simple garage door openers to sophisticated telecommunications satellites depend upon firm and clear regulatory rules to prevent signal interference, both on the ground and in space. Our proposal ensures that our customers can continue to operate in a well-defined regulatory environment, now and in the future, as our proposal contemplates that satellite will remain co-primary in the entire 3700 – 4200 MHz band. Our vision, if adopted, will provide certainty regarding content distribution across the U.S., and give our customers confidence to distribute high quality next-generation programming in the band. We desire to build upon our current stewardship of C-band use by controlling the design and implementation of the technical solutions allowing for joint-use of portions of the spectrum.
  • Reliability – How many times have you sat down to watch linear TV and the signal has disappeared or become fuzzy? We are willing to bet not very often—and that is by design. Media distributors rely on C-band signals because of their 99.99 percent reliability rate, largely due to the proven high-quality of satellite distribution for television broadcast services. Unlike terrestrial services, which are subject to fiber cuts and frequent ‘maintenance outages’ as signals wind their way through public fiber connections networks, satellite services reside in space using payloads that are designed to provide nearly-perfect transmissions with unparalleled reach, ubiquity, and resilience. Any joint-use of the spectrum must ensure that we maintain the same level of access and reliability for our customers. Disrupting service for the millions of people that rely on C-band is simply not an option.
  • Quality – Satellites using the C-band spectrum benefit from signals that have superior propagation characteristics, making these satellites impervious to signal degradation during even the harshest weather conditions. Our C-band signals are designed to cover the entire United States with a single beam. The unequaled efficiency of sending a single signal that can be viewed by every home in the U.S. makes satellite the ideal technology for television distribution. Pristine quality is a critical and defining element of C-band service. Any action that disrupts C-band service would impact the millions of Americans who depend on it to view their favorite programming. Enabling joint-use of the spectrum without a well thought-out plan could degrade signals and negatively impact the high-quality experience viewers have come to expect when turning on their television sets or radio. By proposing a solution that avoids co-frequency use in certain areas, while retaining satellite’s ability to use all 500 MHz elsewhere, Intelsat aims to preserve the quality of programming distribution through C-band spectrum.
What we have proposed contemplates enabling joint-use through a new paradigm —creating a win-win, instead of a win-lose solution. You can rest assured that we have analyzed our proposal from all angles and one thing has remained clear: there will be absolutely no compromise on certainty, reliability and quality of the satellite services that our media customers have grown accustomed to receiving from Intelsat. We are confident that our market-based proposal will spare millions of Americans from experiencing interference when watching television, while still helping accelerate the path for future 5G growth in the U.S. However, let us be clear: we will always steadfastly ensure that our customer-first approach is paramount while navigating the complex waters of C-band spectrum regulation, and that such approach will remain at the forefront of Intelsat’s priorities as we engage in this process.