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FCC Chairman Wants Public Auction To Repurpose Satellite Bands For 5G

Chairman Ajit Pai is pressing for a public auction of wireless frequencies in the C-band spectrum (the 4GHz to 8GHz range often used by satellite companies) for the sake of 5G service. Engadget reports: This would help the FCC clear up “significant” frequency space in a quick fashion, generate money for the government and “ensure continued delivery” of existing services, Pai argued. He hoped to auction off a 280MHz slice while leaving the upper 200MHz available. An FCC official told the Wall Street Journal that the regulator hoped to bring the C-band auction up for a vote in 2020 and start the auction by the end of that year.

Satellite companies, however, might not be so happy. Industry giants like Intelsat and SES haven’t been averse to selling their spectrum, but they’ve wanted a private auction to share the money they make and have claimed the FCC isn’t allowed to take in-use spectrum without paying them. A public auction flies in the face of that. The C-Band Alliance, a group representing the satellite firms, has hinted at “protracted litigation” if the FCC pushes forward. Carriers are also of mixed opinions. AT&T, which owns DirecTV, has called C-band an “opportunity” but also wanted compensation and a “reasonable transition plan” to avoid disruptions. Verizon (Engadget’s parent company and Pai’s former employer) likewise wanted “appropriate incentives and protections” to ensure a quick process.

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