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Intelsat and SES Complete C-Band Spectrum Clearing  

By Rachel Jewett | August 14, 2023
Via Satellite archive photo

Via Satellite archive photo

Both Intelsat and SES report they have completed activities to clear C-band spectrum, paving the way for the two companies to receive billions of dollars in payments. 

This closes out the operators’ work to clear a portion of the C-band after the FCC reallocated the C-band for wireless use in 2020. Overall, satellite operators received relocation costs and a total of $9.7 billion to clear the spectrum, while the auction grossed $80.9 billion, setting a record as the highest-grossing FCC auction

SES confirmed on Aug. 10 that the FCC certified its C-band clearing including launching five new satellites and repacking all of its C-band downlink services in the continental United States in a certain portion of the band. 

SES is now eligible to receive its second chunk of accelerated relocation payment, totaling $2.99 billion, before tax estimated at about 18% to 19%. SES expects this payment to be made in the fourth quarter of this year. 

Intelsat confirmed its clearing on Aug. 14, after its final C-band satellite, Galaxy 37/Horizons-4, launched earlier this month. Intelsat will receive $3.67 billion in the fourth quarter. 

Intelsat CEO Dave Wajsgras said the funds will pay down debt, and enable future strategic opportunities. “Half of these proceeds will be used to deleverage our balance sheet, consistent with our debt covenants, while the remainder provides Intelsat with various options to create value and opportunities for all of our stakeholders,” Wajsgras commented. 

Meanwhile, the operators continue a court battle over a portion of the funds. In June, a U.S. District Judge sided with SES, issuing a ruling that SES is entitled to $421 million of Intelsat’s payout so the companies would have an equal split of incentive payments. The judge sent the case back to Intelsat’s former bankruptcy court. SES CEO Ruy Pinto recently said he’s “bullish” the dispute will end up in SES’s favor, although the timing is uncertain.