I guess what would help my confusion is getting an answer to this... How many satellites are they on the hook to launch, and by when. From the listing, it looks like we will see the following launched:
RB-1 (along with DirecTV 14) at 99W
RB-2 at 103W
RB-4 at 110W
Of these, only RB-1/DirecTV 14 is under contract.
Of course, I also am one who likes to think of these birds as "black boxes" that magicly make them moving pictures show up on that flat panel thing on the other side of the room.
That's actually an interesting question. There are certain regulatory milestones that Directv MUST by law meet with regard to these licenses, barring some kind of petition for relief for special circumstances. I think they have a year or so to decide what to do with the RB-2 and RB-4 allocations, but I haven't looked at the timeline lately. Sixto probably has all that stuff memorized by now.
However, it's not just additional bandwidth that has to be considered, it's maintenance of existing bandwidth. Per their recent investor presentations, some of the older Ku birds are nearing their design lifespan. D5 has less than 3-1/2 years of life expectancy left, although it has fuel for quite a bit longer. But it's not just station-keeping fuel that determines lifespan. There's also transponder health, spacecraft electronics/control systems, solar array and battery health, etc. Only Directv's technical staff know how the spacecraft is doing as it gets older, but age-related degradation is a fact of life in engineering. Next up on the "lifespan report" is D4S with predicted lifespan in late 2016, and then D8 and SW1 in mid-2017, and SW2 in mid-2018 . . . so one hopes that Directv has a well thought-out plan for the mid-term future going forward.