C-Band Auction Can Proceed After Appeals Court Rejects Delay

A court ruling Tuesday lets the Federal Communications Commission move ahead with plans to auction frequencies crucial to development of the next-generation 5G mobile networks.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington rejected a request by four small satellite operators to delay the process while they argue in a lawsuit that the auction of C-band airwaves would unfairly benefit their competitors.

The decision keeps the agency’s plans for a December auction on track, Matthew Schettenhelm, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said in a note.

“The court didn’t expedite the case, however, which creates the possibility it will still be undecided when the airwaves auction opens,” Schettenhelm said.

Intelsat SA and SES SA, both based in Luxembourg, are the major holders of rights to the frequencies, which will be auctioned for use by fast 5G networks. Bidders could include large mobile broadband providers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc.

The satellite providers are to be paid for leaving the airwaves. They’ll retain some frequencies to serve customers that include broadcasters who receive programming via satellite links.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement, called the court ruling “great news” and said he looks forward to beginning the auction on its scheduled date of Dec. 8.

The companies that sought a stay -- ABS Global Ltd., Empresa Argentina del Soluciones Satelitales SA, Hispamar Satelites SA and Hispasat SA -- say the auction would force them to give up parts of the C-band without proper compensation.

“Appellants have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal,” the court wrote.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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