5G, C-Band, and the United States

Why is 5G important, and how does C-band spectrum relate to 5G?

The next generation of mobile communications technology, 5G, will bring ultrafast, ground-breaking services to consumers and businesses and will be one of the most important drivers of innovation and economic growth over the next two decades, generating millions of new, high-paying jobs, and creating more efficient and effective businesses and public services.

In order for 5G to be deployed, U.S. wireless operators need access to the C-band, a band of spectrum currently used by Satellite Operators serving U.S. broadcasters and programmers to provide TV and radio to nearly 120 million American homes, as well as other critical data transmission services. Therefore, the FCC has worked with Satellite Operators to develop a plan to vacate a portion of this spectrum for use by 5G wireless operators while migrating current customers to a new solution.

How will C-band spectrum be cleared for 5G?

The FCC spent two years carefully developing a plan to clear 280 MHz of C-band spectrum for 5G mobile services (plus a 20-MHz guard band) in the contiguous United States (CONUS) and established accelerated clearing deadlines to ensure spectrum is cleared quickly. The transition will take place over two phases to make C-band spectrum available for 5G mobile services by December 2023, with a portion of that spectrum becoming available in certain markets as early as December 2021.

To deliver on the clearing milestones set out in the FCC’s Order, SES will procure and launch satellites to provide necessary capacity for our existing customers and begin filtering tens of thousands of Earth Station antennas throughout the United States to prevent interference from new 5G services.


Transition Process

What is SES’s transition/implementation process?

SES’s transition plan filed with the FCC details how SES is going to migrate existing services. SES has 178 customers that will be affected by the C-band repurposing: 112 services on domestic satellites and 66 services on international satellites. Below is an overview of the general implementation process. Please review the full transition plan for more details: https://www.ses.com/north-america/ses-transition-plan

SES receives a list of the affiliates either from a customer or from the FCC’s list of Incumbent Earth Stations, which has now been finalized by the FCC: https://www.fcc.gov/document/ib-releases-incumbent-earth-station-list-37-42-ghz-band. Incumbent Earth Stations who elect a lump sum payment for the cost of the transition will be removed from our list: https://www.fcc.gov/document/wtb-releases-final-c-band-cost-category-and-lump-sum-public-notice

Every Incumbent Earth Station that does not elect a lump sum payment will be contacted by an outreach vendor (currently Superior Satellite Engineers and ATCi, a subsidiary of Evertz Microsystems, Ltd) to confirm general Earth Station information. To ensure a smooth and efficient transition with minimal service disruptions, SES asks that all Incumbent Earth Station operators respond in a timely manner.

During our outreach to customers, we will also determine equipment required for the transition (antenna equipment, filters, etc.) depending on the needs of the site in accordance with SES’s customer transitions. This will include a determination if the site requires a new antenna to access a satellite that the site does not currently access. It will also include a determination of the number of antennas at the site accessing SES satellites, which will define the number of Passband Filters that must be installed to minimize interference from 3.7 GHz Service emissions. All filters will be purchased by SES, held in a warehouse, and shipped out to the Incumbent Earth Station or to the SES-hired installer.

The SES-hired installation teams will call the Incumbent Earth Station operator to schedule a time window to install equipment, based on SES’s transition plan. Given their particular needs, we anticipate that all MVPDs will most likely be scheduled within the last 6 months of the Phase I and Phase II clearing timelines. Most MVPDs will require access to several satellites and all transitions on those satellites will need to be completed before any filters are installed. SES and Intelsat will coordinate the installation of filters at shared sites to minimize the burden on the Incumbent Earth Station operator. We also anticipate that some Incumbent Earth Stations (such as those that only need access to one satellite) may be able to accommodate the installation of filters at any time.

What are the accelerated clearing deadlines?

December 5, 2021: “Phase I Deadline” – The lower 120 MHz of spectrum must be cleared, and filters distributed to allow terrestrial service in 46 of the top 50 PEAs (Partial Economic Area, similar to a metropolitan area) 
December 5, 2023: “Phase II Deadline” – Full contiguous U.S. (CONUS) clearing of the lower 300 MHz of spectrum for accelerated relocation payment
December 5, 2025: “Relocation Deadline” – Satellite Operator “sunset” for the lower 300 MHz in CONUS (i.e., loss of primary protection and right to relocation costs)

Will COVID-19 impair SES’s ability to meet the accelerated clearing deadlines?

SES has designed its clearing process to account for the challenges of the pandemic and does not foresee delays in its efforts to meet the FCC Order deadlines. We are monitoring the effects of the pandemic on our suppliers and will provide an update to the FCC if there are any significant developments. If this affects our established schedules with customers, we will also contact those customers directly to reschedule. SES remains committed to meeting the clearing milestones set out in the Order.

Will SES be hiring American companies to support the C-band clearing and transition?

Yes. SES is investing in America by procuring from businesses across the U.S. the services and equipment needed for the C-band transition. SES has made substantial investments with U.S. companies in the transition process and will continue to do so. See our U.S. C-Band Transition Vendors page for more information.

Earth Station Operators


Can I continue receiving C-band services in the 3.7-4.0 GHz band after the December 5, 2025 deadline or accelerated clearing deadlines within CONUS at my own risk of interference from 3.7 GHz Services?

No. Regulations prohibit the transmission of C-band satellite services in the 3700-4000 MHz band for purpose of receipt within CONUS after the aforementioned deadlines.

How do I know if any of the services I receive in the C-band are moving?

For more details, please contact your programmer directly. Additionally, please refer to Appendix C of the SES transition plan.

How can an Earth Station operator confirm that its Earth Station is an Incumbent Earth Station?

An Earth Station operator should consult with the FCC to confirm if its Earth Station is an Incumbent Earth Station. The FCC posted a Public Notice on August 3, 2020 with its incumbent Earth Station list. An Earth Station operator can also contact the FCC directly to determine if its Earth Station(s) are Incumbent Earth Stations.

How can an Incumbent Earth Station operator determine if its Incumbent Earth Station is going to be part of Phase I?

SES has indicated in its transition plan (final version submitted to the FCC on August 14, 2020) which Incumbent Earth Stations accessing SES satellites will require Passband Filters in Phase I and Phase II. 

What are the benefits of being an Incumbent Earth Station?

Cost reimbursement: The FCC allows all reasonable and actual costs of transitioning an Incumbent Earth Station to be reimbursed through the Relocation Reimbursement Clearinghouse.  Unless an Incumbent Earth Station operator elects to take the lump sum, the Satellite Operators will bear most or all of the costs of an Earth Station transition.

Protection from 3.7 GHz Service interference: The FCC has defined technical rules for 3.7 GHz Service licensees that include maximum power flux density (PFD) levels at Incumbent Earth Station locations. The combination of passband filters and maximum PFD levels reduce the risk of harmful interference from 3.7 GHz Service emissions into Incumbent Earth Stations. The requirements are set out in Sections 27.50, 27.53, and 27.55 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

In its transition plan, SES has included a listing of Incumbent Earth Stations accessing SES satellites, which may be adjusted based on further research and decisions by SES’s customers or Incumbent Earth Station operators. SES will handle transition for you unless you elect a lump sum payment.

If you have someone come and install the filters, will that tech also repeak the dish?

SES recognizes that some Incumbent Earth Station may have unique characteristics or requirements, including old and obsolete facilities, and will require a customized approach to timely transition every associated Incumbent Earth Station.  When the installer visits the site, the installation technician will be equipped to address a number of potential scenarios, including cases where an antenna is not performing adequately when tested prior to any work that needs to be done, the inability to install a filter due to antenna mechanical issues, and antennas in hard-to-reach locations.


Earth Station Antenna Registration

What will happen to unregistered Earth Stations during the transition?

The FCC opened a brief window for Incumbent Earth Station operators to include all of the C-band antennas located at a site with at least one registered antenna.  Once that window closes on September 25, 2020, we understand that the FCC will not allow any further registrations. 

SES has agreed to voluntarily install filters on any unregistered antennas collocated with Incumbent Earth Stations receiving services from an SES satellite at the same time we install filters on those collocated antennas.

SES will not install filters or take any responsibility for transitioning unregistered antennas that are not collocated with an Incumbent Earth Station pointed to an SES satellite.

If SES installs a filter on an unregistered antenna, does that change its standing with the FCC as an unregistered Earth Station? 

SES’s decision to voluntarily install filters on unregistered antennas collocated with Incumbent Earth Stations receiving services from an SES satellite does not change the status of those unregistered antennas with respect to the C-Band R&O and therefore, they will not be eligible for interference protection from future licensed terrestrial services.

Will voluntarily installing filters on any unregistered antennas located at Incumbent Earth Station sites affect SES’s accelerated clearing certification?

Because SES is volunteering to take on this filtering activity, which is outside the scope of the obligations imposed by the C-Band R&O, the unregistered antennas subject to this agreement will not be considered part of SES’s accelerated clearing obligations or relevant for SES’s accelerated clearing certification.


Lump Sum Election

What does it mean that an Incumbent Earth Station can take a lump sum as determined by the FCC?

The Order provides for Incumbent Earth Stations to elect a lump sum payment equal to the average, estimated reasonable transition costs of Earth Stations in the applicable class of Earth Stations, as determined by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, in lieu of actual relocation costs. If an Incumbent Earth Station operator elects the lump sum payment, it is responsible for coordinating with the relevant Space Station operator as necessary and performing all relocation actions on its own, including switching to alternative transmission mechanisms such as fiber, and it will not receive further reimbursement for any costs exceeding the lump sum payment. It must also inform the appropriate Space Station operator(s) and the Relocation Coordinator that Earth Station migration and filtering will not be necessary for the relevant Earth Station site and must coordinate with operators to avoid any disruption of video and radio programming. Elections must be made by September 14, 2020 according to the process established by the FCC. https://www.fcc.gov/document/wtb-releases-final-c-band-cost-category-and-lump-sum-public-notice

What is the amount of the lump sum?

On July 30, 2020, The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) released the final C-Band Cost Category and Lump Sum Public Notice. With this Public Notice, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) released the 3.7 GHz Transition Final Cost Category and the optional lump sum payment amounts for eligible Incumbent Earth Station operators and announced the process and deadline for the lump sum elections. See link below for all instructions and information. The Deadline to accept the lump sum payment is September 14, 2020. https://www.fcc.gov/document/wtb-releases-final-c-band-cost-category-and-lump-sum-public-notice 

What happens if an Incumbent Earth Station elects a lump sum?

If an Incumbent Earth Station chooses a lump sum, it must choose the same option for all Earth Stations that it has registered. For example, if a major cable operator chooses a lump sum for its main Earth Station, it must also choose a lump sum for all its registered Earth Stations, regardless of size, location, etc. The Earth Station will then need to coordinate  with the Satellite Operator they are working with to complete the process. See the FCC website for official guidance on electing the lump sum: https://www.fcc.gov/document/wtb-releases-final-c-band-cost-category-and-lump-sum-public-notice 

In addition, the Satellite Operator(s) responsible for service to that site is no longer responsible for transitioning that Incumbent Earth Station by the accelerated clearing deadlines. Any Incumbent Earth Station that is subject to the lump sum election can be deemed as transitioned by the responsible Satellite Operator. Once an Incumbent Earth Station operator chooses to accept the lump sum for all of its Earth Stations, all of the operator’s Earth Stations will be removed from the SES transition plan.

What happens if an Incumbent Earth Station does not elect a lump sum?

If an Incumbent Earth Station does not elect the lump sum option with the FCC, then one or more of the Space Station operators must provide and install needed equipment at the Earth Station to ensure a smooth transition for that site to receive only in the 3820-4200 MHz band for those Earth Stations included in Phase I and in the 4000-4200 MHz band for all stations at the end of Phase II. See the FCC website for official guidance on not electing the lump sum: https://www.fcc.gov/document/wtb-releases-final-c-band-cost-category-and-lump-sum-public-notice

SES is responsible for providing and installing needed equipment at any Incumbent Earth Station that has an Incumbent Earth Station pointed to one or more SES satellites and did NOT choose the lump sum payment.

How does an Incumbent Earth Station’s election impact the role the Satellite Operator will play with respect to that station?

If an electing Incumbent Earth Station chooses to continue to operate in the C-band, it will need to coordinate with the Satellite Operator, who will provide it with the transition dates of the services on the satellite. That will drive the deadline by which the station needs to be ready for the transition by making sure it has the necessary antennas in place and has completed the re-tuning process of the receivers during that transition. If the Earth Station needs a technology upgrade, the Satellite Operator will schedule the shipment of integrated receiver/decoders (IRDs) to the Earth Station along with the shipment of the IRDs for those Earth Stations that do not elect the lump sum as well.  The Satellite Operator will not be responsible for installing the technology upgrade equipment for electing Earth Stations.

Will all Incumbent Earth Stations receive technology upgrades to assist them with receiving signals that have been compressed on the satellite?

No. In its transition plan, SES noted that it only has one customer that will implement compression. Affiliates of that one customer will be contacted directly regarding the equipment needed for the Technical Upgrade. If you are not contacted by SES regarding a Technology Upgrade, then you are not affected by this requirement.

Where can I find the single payment amounts for technology upgrades? 

Please refer to the FCC Cost Catalog, available here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-457A2.pdf

How are Earth Station on Vessels (ESVs) affected by the Order?

As set forth in Appendix A – § 2.106 Table of Frequency Allocations of the Order, the allowable reception in the 3700-4200 MHz is as follows:

When in port and docked within CONUS, an ESV can operate in the 4000-4200 MHz band and have protected status via frequency coordination.

When in port and not coordinated or when at sail, ESVs are authorized to operate in the 3700-4200 MHz band but without protected status. Note that if a passband filter is in use on the ESV, it will preclude the reception of services below the passband cutoff frequency.

Note that the use of a passband filter may reduce the effect of interference from 3.7 GHz Services on received satellite signals in the 4000-4200 MHz band.



Can I use any filter advertised as a “5G filter”?

These are not recommended for antennas pointed to SES satellites. SES plans to provide Passband Filters – built and tested to SES specifications and meeting FCC requirements as set forth in the Order – to all antennas at an Incumbent Earth Station location accessing SES satellites that have not opted for the lump sum payment. Frequencies used outside of the CONUS for 5G deployments in the C-band may be different than those used in CONUS; therefore, the filter specifications may not be adequate for CONUS.

How will the filter installations work, what is SES’s responsibility and what is the Incumbent Earth Station operator’s responsibility?

The SES-hired installation teams will call the Incumbent Earth Station operator to schedule a time window to install equipment, based on SES’s transition plan. SES will be responsible for providing the equipment required for the transition and will manage installation configuration and transition from existing service to new one. The Incumbent Earth Station operator is responsible for facilitating the installation process by providing any information required and coordinating installation with the install team.

Will SES pay for the filters?

SES is hiring contractors to identify sites needing filters. SES will pay for these filters and then be reimbursed by the FCC. SES has agreed to voluntarily install filters on any unregistered antennas collocated with Incumbent Earth Stations receiving services from an SES satellite at the same time we install filters on those collocated antennas.

Are the antennas and filters being provided for HITS customers regardless of opt-in/out of the lump sum reimbursement option?

If a HITS customer elects the lump sum, SES will not provide any equipment other than the IRD.


Radio Affiliates

Does SES provide a list of vendors that will be contracted for radio affiliates?

Yes, SES is in the process of contracting with well-known, reputable industry vendors to complete the installation work for those incumbent Earth Stations who do not elect the FCC’s Lump Sum option.

Will SES provide a timeline for when they will move radio affiliates on the satellite?

As per our transition plan filed with the FCC, SES plans in general to move our radio customers on the satellite between November 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.

What if an Incumbent Earth Station Operator chooses to self-install?

SES anticipates that certain Incumbent Earth Station operators  will prefer to install equipment needed for the transition on their own at some or all of their sites. For such self-installations, SES requests the Incumbent Earth Station operator to notify SES in email format to [email protected] no later than October 14, 2020 of its intent to self-install equipment.

The notice must specify if the Incumbent Earth Station operator plans to:

1. procure equipment on its own, and therefore will be seeking reimbursement directly through the Relocation Payment Clearinghouse rather than SES covering costs of the equipment.


2. request SES-provided equipment and provide in the notice to SES a detailed list of the equipment that is required for each physical Incumbent Earth Station identified in the FCC’s Final Incumbent Earth Station list receiving service from an SES satellite. SES will review these details to determine the eligibility for reimbursement of the equipment prior to ordering and shipping to the Incumbent Earth Station operator’s location.

For Incumbent Earth Station operators choosing to self-install equipment, SES will provide the timeline within which the dual illumination of all the affected services will occur and when the equipment must be installed. Upon receipt of the necessary equipment by the Incumbent Earth Station operator, SES will then provide the Incumbent Earth Station operator remote assistance via SES’s help desk as needed to support the installation. 

Important: The Incumbent Earth Station operator must provide SES with a certification confirming that all the equipment has been installed and tested on all Incumbent Earth Stations receiving SES services at that location, and no operational issues have been identified. If an Incumbent Earth Station operator informs SES that it intends to self-install but fails to provide a certification of completion for that Incumbent Earth Station in a timely manner, then it will be considered successfully completed and designated as such in SES’s quarterly report to the FCC.  

What should I do if my station has not heard from anyone?

Contact your network provider or the SES Helpline at 609-987-4400 or [email protected]


HITS Webinar

How do I know what type of 5G filter will be installed on my equipment?

SES’s installer will let you know which specific filter they will install. A description of the filter specifications is available at https://www.ses.com/sites/default/files/2020-08/Earth%20Station%20Passband%20Filter%20-%20SES%20July%202020.pdf.

We currently have filters on all LNB's for ground-based radar interference from an Air Force base. Will the new 5G filters reject interference from radar as well?

Yes, the new filters will reject both 5G signals and ground-based radar interference. See https://www.ses.com/sites/default/files/2020-08/Earth%20Station%20Passband%20Filter%20-%20SES%20July%202020.pdf for information on the filters.


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Contact us

C-Band Help Desk Line: 609-987-4400

[email protected]