Eutelsat, which is also involved in the restructuring of C-band frequencies over the US, has confirmed to the FCC that it will not be buying a dedicated C-band satellite to serve the company’s North American clients.
Eutelsat, back in June, had cautioned the FCC that an additional satellite might be needed – at a cost of about $150 million – but now says in its transition plan that it will rationalize its US capacity so that its existing satellites will be sufficient.
“Eutelsat now expects that prudent management of capacity and demand for C-band satellite services during and after the transition will allow it to provide ‘substantially the same or better service to incumbent earth station operators’ without launching any new C-band satellites,” Eutelsat told the FCC.
Eutelsat has four operational satellites that are serving US clients: Eutelsat 117 West A, Eutelsat 115 West B and Eutelsat 172B. Eutelsat 113 West A is also active but will be retired in 2023 and not replaced. Two other satellites serve the market, including 117 West B. Eutelsat’s craft all operate under its Eutelsat American subsidiary and reflect its acquisition of SatMex in 2013.
Eutelsat has revised downward its likely expenses at just $14.9 million in supplying Earth station modifications, re-tuning, filters and clearing costs. Those costs will be reimbursed by the FCC and Eutelsat will also get the incentive bonus payment from the FCC.
Eutelsat says it has to handle 536 antennas at 291 sites, of which 476 antennas will need to be re-pointed with 60 to be returned.
To make its transition as painless as possible, Eutelsat says it will dual-emit any programming/broadcasts carried on the ‘old’ frequency as well as on the ‘new’ frequency. This exercise will cost a total of $5.9 million for the three months of dual illumination plus a further $468,320 for equipment.
However, Eutelsat (along with EchoStar, Hughes Network Systems and Inmarsat) has had a dig at rival SES and its satellite orders. It asks that the FCC “requires each such subsidized satellite to serve the CONUS for the duration of its useful life, and that the Commission specifically clarifies that the costs of spare satellites and “backup” launches are ineligible. Eutelsat continues to urge the Commission to act on that Petition, in order to bring greater clarity and consistency to the process under which C-band satellite operators are developing these Transition Plans.”
“Eutelsat now expects that prudent management of capacity and demand for C-band satellite services during and after the transition will allow it to provide ‘substantially the same or better service to incumbent earth station operators’ without launching any new C-band satellites,” said Eutelsat to the FCC.
Intelsat’s submission to the FCC for its transition plan explains that its client list – in normal non-Covid times – requires a large slice of capacity to support Occasional Use (OU) and Contribution services.
In 2019, without the problems of Covid-19, amounted to some 20 transponders-worth of bandwidth at maximum demand and supporting 16,000 C-band service reservations for sports, news and special events during the year.
There are also demands on Intelsat for back-up “Restoration Services” which “ensure that Contribution or Distribution services have continuity should a satellite suffer a transponder or payload failure, or a terrestrial network anomaly occurs.”
Intelsat added, “Restoration services are critical services integrated into the Galaxy fleet to ensure service/business continuity and to protect the enterprise value of Intelsat’s customers. Restoration services are contracted for, paid for, and provided as part of the cable distribution service bundle and similarly, to broadcaster and data network customers as well. Customers that desire this service have historically relied on and will continue relying on the continuity of their services, pre-planning the go-to locations with their earth stations for service restoration and on near real time or swift implementation of restoration to minimize any service disruptions.”
Intelsat explained to the FCC that, while it is conforming with the FCC’s order to clear spectrum in an accelerated timeline and, at the same time, provide “same or better” services to its clients, it has to balance a range of requirements.
- Focus on use of existing ‘penetrated’ orbital locations.
- Prioritize CONUS services on the upper 200 MHz and transition non-CONUS services to the lower 300 MHz.
- Replace Galaxy satellites at penetrated orbital locations and deploy compression to customer services where it materially reduces going-forward capacity and allows programming to fit within the top 200 MHz.
- Simplify many replacement C-band satellite payloads to ten transponders, while building a minority of C-band payloads with 24 transponders for Alaska, Hawaii, and off-shore applications.
- Maintain proven component, system, satellite, and on-orbit redundancies to meet contracted service levels of 99.999 percent availability or greater.
News stories authored by journalist Chris Forrester,
who posts for the Advanced Television infosite
and is a Senior Contributor for Satnews Publishers.