SES to appeal Intelsat C-band sharing decision

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TAMPA, Fla. — SES filed plans Oct. 14 to appeal a court’s decision last month that disallowed its bid to equally split nearly $9 billion of anticipated C-band clearing proceeds with Intelsat. 

SES will ask the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to review the decision, which the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia made Sept. 30 after more than two years of legal action.

The satellite operator brought a $1.8 billion claim to the bankruptcy court in July 2020, two months after Intelsat filed for Chapter 11, over a broken agreement to split proceeds they would get for clearing C-band spectrum for terrestrial telcos.

The bankruptcy court ultimately sustained an objection from Intelsat, which argued their agreement was nullified once the Federal Communications Commission chose to sell C-band frequencies to telcos in a public auction, rather than a private process run by the satellite operators.

Intelsat emerged from bankruptcy in February and plans to use C-band proceeds to fuel its return to growth. 

The satellite operators have already unlocked more than $2 billion in combined proceeds from meeting an initial C-band clearing milestone last year. 

Intelsat and SES would get a maximum of $4.9 billion and $3.97 billion, respectively, if they can fully vacate the lower 300 MHz slice of C-band by Dec. 5, 2023.

New C-band satellites are required to clear the spectrum and the operators have ordered 13 of these between them, with launches already underway.