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Intelsat Joins SES in Committing to C-Band Auction of Airwaves

Todd Shields

(Bloomberg) -- Intelsat SA said it filed a commitment with the Federal Communications Commission to give up airwaves that are to be auctioned for use by mobile broadband, preserving its positioning for a payout from the sale.

The action follows a similar commitment earlier Tuesday by fellow satellite communications provider SES SA, the other major holder of rights to the so-called C-band airwaves that are to be sold as the FCC pushes for more frequencies for fast 5G networks.

The satellite companies will retain some airwaves to serve current customers. The companies are in line for a share of as much as $9.7 billion for leaving airwaves coveted by wireless providers. The FCC set a May 29 deadline for providers to say whether they will participate.

Stephen Spengler, chief executive officer of Intelsat, said in an emailed news release that the company was “committed to advancing – at an accelerated pace – America’s position in the race to 5G.”

“We understand what’s required to successfully and quickly transition current users, while maintaining high-quality, uninterrupted broadcast to more than 100 million American homes and businesses,” Spengler added.

Bidders at the auction that’s to begin Dec. 8 are expected to include large mobile broadband providers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc.

Intelsat, weighed down by almost $15 billion of debt, filed for bankruptcy protection May 14 as part of efforts to raise cash needed to prepare its spectrum for the auction.

The FCC’s plan would provide $9.7 billion in compensation to satellite providers if they hit deadlines for leaving the airwaves quickly. Separately, the companies could share in another $3.3 billion to $5.2 billion to reimburse them for costs of making the switch.

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