Shares of communications-satellite operator Intelsat (NYSE:I) are on the move again Thursday, trading up 10.6% as of 1:35 p.m. EDT -- and this time there's a reason for that.
Intelsat is teaming up with fellow satcom companies Eutelsat and SES to propose "a market-based proposal for the future use of the lower C-band spectrum" in the U.S., "a commercial and technical framework that would enable terrestrial mobile operators to quickly access spectrum in the 3,700 to 4,200 MHz frequency band in the U.S., speeding the deployment of next-generation 5G services." Investors are responding positively to the prospect that Intelsat will be able to better monetize its spectrum holdings in years to come.
As Intelsat explains, "C-band spectrum plays an essential role in the U.S. broadcasting ecosystem, delivering seamless distribution of video and audio programming to more than 100 million U.S. households," among other uses. But there's unused capacity within this spectrum, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is open to allowing mobile phone operators to use it to roll out wireless 5G data services.
Intelsat and its peer satellite operators want to form a "consortium" to "oversee the governance of the initiative, define and implement the methodology for spectrum clearance, and serve as the sole interface for market-based transactions with parties interested in deploying terrestrial mobile services in specific portions of the C-band." The company says this will allow it to "advance our interests and those of our clients and contribute to the momentum of the initiative."
The FCC has just issued its notice of proposed rulemaking today, so it's hard to predict at this time how the process will play out. Investors appear to be responding positively, however, to the prospect of Intelsat entering into a consortium that would give it an outsize say in how spectrum gets divvied up -- and profited from.
Time will tell if that optimism is justified.