FCC Chairman Pai Offers Satellite Operators $9.7 Billion (Plus Costs) to Clear C-Band

Ajit Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed accelerated relocation payments for satellite operators that could total up to $9.7 billion as incentive to quickly clear part of the C-band spectrum for 5G purposes. 

Those payments, Pai said, would be paid by the winning bidders in a public C-band auction, who would also reimburse operators for relocation costs. The Chairman presented his proposal on Thursday afternoon, for a vote at the FCC’s upcoming Feb. 28 meeting. He proposed that the FCC begin the C-band auction on Dec. 8. 

Pai called his amount of $9.7 billion a “Goldilocks” proposal, which will incentivize quickly clearing the spectrum, a goal that he said is in the public interest. 

“We aren’t just asking incumbents to move their services to the upper 200 MHz of the C-band. We want them to do that quickly, so we can free up spectrum for 5G sooner rather than later,” Pai said. “This transition will be much faster if we can create powerful incentives for incumbent operators to expedite that transition.” 

The FCC provided this timeline for eligible satellite operators to clear the spectrum: clearing 120 megahertz, from 3.7-3.82 GHz, by September 2021 in 46 of the top 50 Partial Economic Areas in the U.S.; and clearing the remaining 180 megahertz, from 3.82-4.0 GHz, in those areas as well as all 300 megahertz, from 3.7-4.0 GHz, in the rest of the continental U.S. by September 2023.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

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