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Broadcaster Implications as FCC Transitions Some C-Band Spectrum to Terrestrial Wireless Service

The FCC has published an order reallocating 280 MHz C-band spectrum for terrestrial wireless service.

The move would migrate existing content service to the upper 200 MHz of the band.

That would be separated from new terrestrial mobile service by a 20 MHz buffer guard band.

The transition must take place by Dec. 5, 2025, although there are nearly $10 billion in satellite provider incentives available to accelerate the transition.

The FCC’s goal is to clear 120 MHz of spectrum by Dec. 5, 2021 and the remaining 180 MHz by December of 2023.

Of importance to broadcast stations – all costs for stations’ registered earth stations will be reimbursed.

The FCC will set up a Relocation Payment Clearinghouse to manage collection and distribution of payments.

Satellite operators will have to submit transition plans explaining how they will relocate incumbent users and maintain service.

Rick Kaplan, the general counsel and EVP, Legal and Regulatory Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters, said the NAB secured several improvements from the original FCC draft order circulated earlier this year.

These include:

  • C-band stakeholders, including earth station operators and programmers, may comment on the proposed transition plans the satellite operators submit
  • C-band stakeholders will have the opportunity to identify problems with the clearing before satellite operators receive incentive payments
  • Incentive payments to satellite operators decrease gradually if they miss deadlines, rather than immediately dropping to zero – which could help reduce the incentive to take shortcuts
  • Providing mechanisms for resolving disputes over costs, workmanship or the comparability of facilities during the transition
  • Clarifying that comparability means that end-to-end service quality is at least as good as it is today
  • Including helpful language regarding the eligibility for reimbursement of costs associated with individual programmer technology choices, i.e., HEVC compression

This transition will be a massive undertaking, but TAB and the NAB will be monitoring the move to ensure that broadcasters’ interests will be safeguarded as the process takes place.

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