TAMPA, Fla. — SES is asking Intelsat’s bankruptcy court for a speedier summary judgment on the satellite operators’ C-band dispute instead of a full trial.

The company said in a June 16 court filing that it had already submitted enough evidence for a ruling in its favor over Intelsat’s withdrawal from their C-Band Alliance, where it said the competitors agreed to split proceeds from clearing the spectrum evenly.

This includes emails and text messages among senior Intelsat executives that SES says support its case.

SES said in the filing that Intelsat wrongfully seeks to keep a $421 million chunk of the C-band proceeds from the company as a result.

Satellite operators are in line for $9.7 billion in total from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for clearing 300MHz of C-band, provided they meet deadlines for making it available for wireless 5G operators. 

Intelsat and SES hold the largest share of the 500 MHz C-band in the U.S. and will get $4.9 billion and $3.97 billion, respectively, under the FCC’s plan.

Intelsat disputes SES’ legal action for a larger share, saying their agreement was no longer applicable when the FCC decided to hold a public auction of C-band spectrum, rather than a private process run by C-Band Alliance members.

An Intelsat official said SES should be taking its complaint to the FCC and not Intelsat.

“SES’s lawsuit is nothing more than a gambit to seize for itself money the FCC allocated to Intelsat, without making any contributions whatsoever to Intelsat’s efforts,” the official said in an email to SpaceNews.

Opposition to the request for a summary judgment from SES must be filed on or before July 16, and oral arguments are slated to be held Aug. 19.

Meanwhile, the two-week trial where SES seeks $1.8 billion in damages in total is scheduled to start Sept. 20.

SES is also one of Intelsat’s largest creditors in its ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. A hearing to decide whether to confirm Intelsat’s plan to exit bankruptcy has not yet been set, although it will likely be scheduled this fall.

Regardless of the outcome of the litigation, SES said it remains fully committed to clearing C-band for 5G wireless services and without disrupting broadcast services that currently use the frequencies. 

Intelsat and SES hit a key internal milestone June 1 for clearing a portion of C-band, setting them up for installing filters in time to meet an FCC deadline Dec. 5.

They stand to get more than $2 billion combined from the FCC if they can give a 120 MHz swath of the frequencies to wireless operators by that deadline.

Billions more will come their way if they fully vacate the lower 300 MHz slice of C-band by Dec. 5, 2023, by moving customers to the upper 200 MHz of the band.


Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...