The FCC’s meeting last week focused on space-related items, including approval of four satellite constellations proposed for broadband internet or IoT services, as well as officially allowing users in the U.S. to tap into signals from Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system.
The Broadband LEOs Are Coming
The FCC approved requests from four companies proposing to launch low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations to provide global broadband internet or IoT services. The four companies or systems are Kepler, LeoSat, SpaceX and Telesat.
Kepler — In an Order and Declaratory Ruling, the FCC granted Kepler’s request for U.S. market access with certain conditions. The approval allows Kepler, a proposed constellation of 140 satellites originally licensed by Canada, to offer global IoT services using sensors and other “intelligent” devices. The satellites will use the 10.7 to 12.7 and 14.0 to 14.5 GHz frequency bands.
LeoSat — In another Order and Declaratory Ruling, the FCC granted LeoSat’s request for U.S. market access. LeoSat, which will operate under the ITU filings of France with a planned authorization from the Netherlands, proposes to provide high speed connectivity for enterprises and underserved communities from a constellation of 78 satellites. LeoSat will use the 17.8 to 18.6, 18.8 to 19.4, 19.6 to 20.2, 27.5 to 29.1 and 29.5 to 30.0 GHz frequency bands.
SpaceX — In a Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization, the FCC authorized SpaceX to construct, deploy and operate a LEO constellation of more than 7,000 satellites and granted SpaceX’s request to add the 37.5 to 42.0 and 47.2 to 50.2 GHz frequency bands to its previously authorized NGSO constellation.
In a written statement, the FCC said the updated approval provides SpaceX with additional flexibility to provide diverse geographic coverage and capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services globally, although the FCC has imposed “certain conditions.”
Telesat — In an Order and Declaratory Ruling, the FCC granted Telesat, a proposed constellation of 117 satellites licensed by Canada, access to the U.S. market. Telesat plans to offer high speed, low latency communication services using the 37.5 to 42.0 and 47.2 to 50.2 GHz frequency bands.
Galileo GNSS Access Now Legal in the U.S.
Acting on a request from the European Union, the FCC has approved allowing users located in the U.S. to access the Galileo global navigation satellite system (GNSS), developed by Europe. The change allows devices such as mobile phones that already have the capability to access two of Galileo’s three signals, augmenting signals from the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS). The added bands should improve availability and reliability of GNSS services in the U.S.
The FCC order permits devices to access two of Galileo’s satellite signals that are in the same bands used by GPS:
- The E1 signal in the 1559 to 1591 MHz portion of the 1559 to 1610 MHz Radionavigation Satellite Service (RNSS) band.
- The E5 signal in the 1164 to 1219 MHz portion of the 1164 to 1215 MHz and 1215 to 1240 MHz RNSS bands.
By design, the Galileo and GPS systems are interoperable, with Galileo’s E1 and E5 frequencies complementary, as reflected in the 2004 European Union/United States Galileo-GPS Agreement.
However, the FCC did not approve access to Galileo’s E6 signal within the U.S. E6 falls in the 1260 to 1300 MHz band, which is not allocated for RNSS in the U.S. nor used by GPS. In a statement, the FCC said access to the E6 signal could constrain future options for using that spectrum.