Satellite operator Intelsat SA filed for bankruptcy protection after falling short of the cash it needed to make airwaves available to be sold to wireless operators in a coming government auction.

Weighed down by roughly $14.5 billion in debt, Intelsat is seeking to use the chapter 11 proceedings to assist it in taking advantage of a planned auction of a swath of spectrum currently being used by satellite operators that the Federal Communications Commission wants to be repurposed for 5G networks.

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