Satellite service provider Intelsat left open the possibility of litigation to maintain its spectrum assets, after the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved ahead with a plan to reallocate C-Band airwaves (3.7GHz-4.2GHz) for 5G.

The plan offers satellite companies currently operating in the band up to $9.7 billion to rapidly free-up a total of 280MHz of mid-band airwaves, and sets a 8 December start date for an auction of fresh licences.

Intelsat was originally deemed eligible to receive up to $4.85 billion in incentive payments, but told the FCC in a recent filing it wants a larger sum in exchange for its spectrum.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai noted changes were made to the plan before it was adopted at the commission’s monthly meeting on Friday (28 February), but declined to specify whether incentive allocations were among those.

An Intelsat representative told Mobile World Live the company would reserve judgment until the final text of the order is released next week, but intended to “preserve all options to ensure our company is treated fairly and to protect our spectrum rights”.

Adoption of the scheme came over the objection of two of the commission’s five members, who argued the agency was overstepping its bounds.

Specifically, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC had “no legal authority” to require auction bidders to make incentive payments beyond reasonable relocation costs. Such payments must be voluntary under FCC rules, she said.

However, Pai insisted the agency was on firm legal footing, and argued it would be “irresponsible” to wait for Congress to decide the fate of spectrum so “vital for 5G”.