SES joined fellow satellite provider Intelsat in backing a proposal to allow mobile operators to use C-band spectrum, in a move designed to spur investment and accelerate 5G rollout in the US.

The companies said in a statement they sought to protect “the wide array of established satellite services” in the 3700MHz to 4200MHz C-band downlink spectrum, while opening up a specified portion of the spectrum for terrestrial mobile use.

SES’ backing for the move follows a move by Intel and Intelsat to approach the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with the plan in October 2017, which was supported by the US regulator.

The companies’ proposal sets out a commercial and technical framework enabling mobile operators “to quickly access approximately 100MHz of nationwide C-band downlink spectrum in the US, speeding the deployment of next-generation 5G services”.

Spectrum push
Operators in the US are increasingly jostling for additional spectrum to meet a growing demand for mobile services, and constantly connected devices. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported the plan to share satellite spectrum could, however, face opposition from mobile operators which want satellite providers to be moved off C-band completely. Such demands will undoubtedly face fierce resistance from satellite providers.

Specifically, the proposal specifies the creation of a consortium, open to all C-band operators, which would oversee the governance of the initiative, define and implement the methodology of spectrum clearance and “serve as the sole interface for market-based transactions with parties interested in deploying mobile services in specific portions of the C-Band”.

SES president and CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh said C-band remained a “critical component of US network architecture” and “it is therefore our duty and mission to protect it from any form of disruption and preserve its use”.

The FCC is now expected to create regulations for new use of the spectrum, and then hold auctions for the airwaves. WSJ added satellite companies could start moving their satellite-based operations to narrow sections of the band two years after the process begins.