SpaceX, Dish Network Engaged in Battle Over Frequency Use

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story about the fight between SpaceX and Dish Network over frequency allocation. While SpaceX is spending billions to deploying thousands of satellites for its global Starlink broadband network, Dish Network wants the Federal Communications Commission to allow it to send Internet signals via cell phone towers.

In later filings with the FCC, Mr. Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, told the regulator it needed those airwaves, which sit above 12 gigahertz on the wireless spectrum, free and clear for its Starlink swarm of satellites to beam high-speed broadband internet service to disconnected homes across the country. SpaceX didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.

The Tesla billionaire’s main antagonist in this case is Dish Network Corp. Chairman Charlie Ergen, another mogul with a history of tangling with regulators. Mr. Ergen’s Dish and his allies—who include Dell Computer founder Michael Dell through his personal investment fund, MSD Capital—are pressing the government to allow cellphone towers to send high-speed internet signals over the same airwaves. SpaceX and fellow satellite operator OneWeb oppose changes that they say threaten their goal of expanding internet access from the skies….

This is the kind of skirmish that companies often wage in Washington over finite resources subject to government rules—but with more-prominent personalities and a nastier edge than most telecom disputes. Fights over wireless spectrum are becoming increasingly common as technological advances like 5G let companies stream data in ways considered impossible a few years ago, spurring new demand for space on the airwaves to carry those signals.

SpaceX says its new Starlink broadband service is already providing cablelike internet speeds to more than 90,000 customers. The FCC granted the company $885 million in incentives to provide more connections to areas of the U.S. that lack true broadband. Dish and its allies argue that looser rules for the 12 GHz frequencies would help the company build a network that will connect smartphones, factory machines and vehicle sensors with the kind of ultrafast internet speeds that 5G promises to deliver.

The story says that Musk was adamant in a phone with the FCC’s then-Chairman Ajit Pai that the regulatory agency not open the frequency for Dish Network to provide services via cell phone towers due to the threat it posed to Starlink.

It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out here and abroad. The U.S. is likely not on the only country where this move is being considered.

FCC Plans to Better Scrutinize RDOF Funding After Free Press Investigation Exposed Questionable and Wasteful Subsidies

Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

WASHINGTON (Free Press PR) — On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission announced its intention to authorize an initial round of more than $311 million in funding for new broadband deployments. The original series of federal subsidies, based on the lowest bids broadband providers submitted in the auction phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), came under heavy scrutiny after Free Press published a six-part investigation. The Free Press reports included exposés of several questionable applicants that sought to bring connectivity to unoccupied parking lots, storage tanks and traffic islands, as well as urban areas that other providers already served.

In response, the FCC has sent letters to 197 winning bidders from 2020, giving each the opportunity to withdraw its funding requests should the money be applied to building out broadband to places already served or “where significant questions of waste have been raised.”

Among recipients of these letters is Elon Musk’s Starlink, the satellite-internet company that won RDOF awards nationwide, including in many densely populated urban areas. The FCC has also denied all funding for AB Indiana, and rejected LTD Broadband’s application to serve in California, Kansas and Oklahoma — representing more than $271 million of the $1.3 billion awarded to the company — due to a failure to secure necessary state-level certifications in a timely fashion.

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Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction to Expand Broadband to Over 10 Million Americans

Rural broadband services to be provided with government funding. (Credit: FCC)

Phase I Auction Allocates $9.2 Billion to Close the Digital Divide in 49 States and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2020 (FCC PR) —The Federal Communications Commission announced today that millions of rural Americans in 49 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will gain access to high-speed Internet service through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction.

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Bye Bye, Neutrality Pai: FCC Chairman to Call it Quits on Jan. 20

Ajit Pai
  • Chairman who led the effort to kill net neutrality will depart with the Trump Administration and his massive coffee cup
  • FCC approved constellations of thousands of satellites by SpaceX and Amazon under his leadership
  • Official announcement from the FCC is below

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2020 (FCC PR) —Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he intends to leave the Federal Communications Commission on January 20, 2021. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years. I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.

“I also deeply appreciate the chance to have worked alongside the FCC’s talented staff. They are the agency’s best assets, and they have performed heroically, especially during the pandemic. It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow Commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda. Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices. As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.

“I am proud of how productive this Commission has been, from commencing five spectrum auctions and two rural broadband reverse auctions in four years, to opening 1,245 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for unlicensed use, to adopting more than 25 orders through our Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, to aggressively protecting our communications networks from national security threats at home and abroad, to designating 988 as the three digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and much, much more. I’m also proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people. In particular, for the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings, making this the most transparent FCC in history.

“Last but not least, I want to thank my family for all they have done to enable me to serve at the agency. The public service of one generally results from the private sacrifice of many, and I’m grateful for their love and support.”

SpaceX, Hughes and ViaSat Among 386 Qualified Bidders for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

Beginning on October 29, 386 Applicants May Bid for Up to $16 Billion in Support to Bring Broadband to Up to 10.25 Million Unserved Americans

WASHINGTON, October 13, 2020 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today announced that 386 applicants are qualified to bid in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction. In a Public Notice, the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force, Office of Economics and Analytics, and Wireline Competition Bureau identified the qualified applicants and provided educational materials for participating in the auction.

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FCC Unanimously Approves Ligado’s Application to Facilitate 5G and Internet of Things Services

Conditions Will Protect Incumbents from Harmful Interference

WASHINGTON (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission announced that it has approved with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that will primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services.

The order approving Ligado’s application was adopted without dissent and will promote more efficient and effective use of our nation’s spectrum resources and ensure that adjacent band operations, including the Global Positioning System (GPS), are protected from harmful interference.

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House Members Ask FCC To Delay Action on Orbital Debris Rules

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three leaders of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have called upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay action on new orbital debris mitigation rules planned for Thursday.

“Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, the immense effort undertaken to recover from the pandemic, and the potential for the FCC’s proposal to exacerbate impacts on U.S. industry and international competitiveness at a critical period in our nation’s history, we hope that you will agree to postpone future action,” the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai read.

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Trump Administration Opposes Additional Study of Possible 5G Weather Satellite Interference

GOES-17 satellite during processing by Astrotech. (Credit: NASA)

The Trump Administration is opposed to any further study on whether new 5G communications services will interfere with meteorological satellites and degrade the accuracy of weather forecasting.

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the White House said it wants a provision removed from the FY 2020 funding bill that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to review the impact of 5G services operating in the 23.6 to 24 gigahertz bands on weather satellites.

“Such a study would be directly duplicative of past Agency studies on this subject, which were fully considered by the Administration in a lengthy interagency process earlier this year, leading to a carefully-wrought compromise that balances the spectrum needs of government and private enterprise,” wrote Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Some studies have shown that 5G transmissions could interfere with weather satellites. However, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has criticized the studies as flawed.

OneWeb, Airbus Open High-production Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Florida

Inside OneWeb’s satellite manufacturing facility in Florida. (Credit: OneWeb)

EXPLORATION PARK, Florida, USA, July 22, 2019 – OneWeb Satellites – a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus – today officially opened the world’s first high-volume, high-speed advanced satellite production facility to bring transformative internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere.

Historically, satellites are custom built, costing tens of millions of dollars to build, and taking more than a year to produce a single one. The OneWeb Satellites facility is the first to employ industrial-scale mass production techniques for satellites, enabling dramatically reduced costs and production times that can deliver one satellite per production shift or two a day, while significantly expanding internet connectivity and making space technology far more accessible.

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FCC Chairman Pai Calls for Streamlined Smallsat Regulations

Ajit Pai

Remarks of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Policy Roundtable on Small Satellite Integration

Washington, DC
July 9, 2019

Thank you for that warm welcome and thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to join you this morning. I’m excited to have the opportunity to speak with you today about the U.S. satellite industry—and specifically how the FCC is promoting American innovation and investment in orbit.

The commercial space sector is growing rapidly. Today, we see reusable rockets, satellites and launch vehicles being miniaturized, and startups popping up all over the country. I would argue that for the first time in a generation, America is witnessing a revolution in spaceflight. Yes, this may just be a feeling, but as an astronomical pioneer once said, “Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.” (That was Captain James T. Kirk in Season 1, Episode 23 of Star Trek: “A Taste of Armageddon.”)

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House Science Committee Not Buying Ajit Pai’s Assurances on Weather Forecasting

Ajit Pai

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The battle over 5G wireless frequency allocation is heating up.

On  one side, there’s NASA, the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who say that spectrum in the 24GHz band the government recently auctioned off to private companies will likely result in cell signals that would interfere with accurate weather forecasting.

On the other side is Federal Communications Commission  and its chairman, Ajit Pai, who ignored requests to delay the auction while more studies were done. Pai recently told the Senate Science Committee to ignore what he called faulty data presented by NASA and NOAA at the 11th hour.

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NASA & Commerce Department Battle FCC Over 5G Frequency Allocation

Ajit Pai

SpaceNews reports that NASA and the Commerce Department are battling the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the commission’s plan to auction radio frequency spectrum for 5G service.

The battle has apparently taken the form of an exchange of tersely written letters.

In a March 8 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, [FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai emphasized the Trump Administration’s commitment to rolling out 5G as soon as possible and freeing up spectrum for it.

The FCC is preparing to auction 2,909 licenses in the 24.25 to 25.25 bands of the electromagnetic spectrum on March 14. At the same time, the FCC is preparing the U.S. government’s proposal for the 2019 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) in Egypt starting in October. The U.S. plan for protecting passive microwave services from interference is far less stringent than plans published by other nations.

Ross and Bridenstine asked for further discussion of the U.S. position.

“The current FCC proposal would have a significant negative impact on the transmission of critical Earth science data – an American taxpayer investment spanning decades and billions of dollars,” they wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to Pai. “As the U.S. government continues to investigate additional spectrum for future commercial broadband use, it is essential that protections are established for the critical operations of NASA, the Department of Commerce and our international partners in the 23.6 to 24 GHz spectrum band.”

Pai wrote back on March 8 rejecting the idea of putting the auction on hold and attending an inter-agency meeting scheduled for today.











SpaceX to Launch Global Satellite Broadband Test Spacecraft on Wednesday

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX is set to launch two spacecraft next week that will demonstration technologies for providing fast global broadband services through a constellation of 12,000 satellites.

Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b spacecraft will hitch a ride aboard a Falcon 9 booster whose primary payload is the Paz synthetic aperture radar satellite. The launch has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6:17 a.m. PST ( 9:17 a.m. EST; 1417 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Backs SpaceX’s Satellite Internet Plan

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON, February 14, 2018 (FCC PR) —Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today proposed that the agency approve an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the United States and on a global basis. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application—along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S. market for non-geostationary satellite orbit systems—involves one such innovation. Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available.

“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.”

Background

Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.