FCC Grants SpaceX Permission to Provide Starlink Broadband Service to Vehicles as Battle with DISH Network Rages Over Frequency

Starlink Premium antenna. (Credit: SpaceX)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted permission to SpaceX to provide Starlink broadband service to vehicles, vessels and aircraft. Bloomberg reports:

The Federal Communications Commission announced the decision in an order published Thursday, which said it also granted permission for the service to mobile customers of Kepler Communications Inc.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the formal name of Musk’s closely held company, has launched about 2,500 first-generation satellites in its Starlink fleet and serves almost 500,000 subscribers worldwide….

The FCC said it received requests to deny or defer the new SpaceX service from Viasat Inc., Dish Network Corp. and RS Access LLC. Viasat has objected to SpaceX’s Starlink, saying it raises the risk of in-space collisions, while Dish and billionaire Michael Dell’s RS Access are embroiled in a dispute with SpaceX over airwaves use.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is engaged in a battle at the FCC over DISH Network’s attempt to expand its use of 12 GHz band. SpaceX disagrees with DISH’s claim that the expansion would render its Starlink satellite broadband useless to most U.S. users.

“Despite technical studies dating back as far as 2016 that refute the basis of their claims, DISH has attempted to mislead the FCC with faulty analysis in hopes of obscuring the truth. If DISH’s lobbying efforts succeed, our study shows that Starlink customers will experience harmful interference more than 77% of the time and total outage of service 74% of the time, rendering Starlink unusable for most Americans,” the company said in a statement.

You can read the details of the study here, as well as SpaceX’s letter to the FCC on the dispute.

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.

Dish Network Battles OneWeb & SpaceX Over Spectrum Allocation

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

The battle over the allocation of Ku-band spectrum is heating up.

A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX.

SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive.

In a June 8 submission to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the coalition says the low-orbiting satellite constellations in Ku-band have provided no credible evidence that they will ever be built. Even if they are, there is plenty of spectrum available in both Ku- and Ka-band, the coalition said.

“There is simply no basis to jeopardize 5G [Multi-Channel Video Distribution and Data Service, or MVDDS] deployment to give additional spectrum to a speculative NGSO service that already has access to ample spectrum,” the MVDDA Coalition said in its FCC petition, referring specifically to OneWeb.

Read the full story.











DISH Network Provides Views of Earth 24/7

earthrise

DISH NETWORK PRESS RELEASE

DISH Network Corporation (Nasdaq: DISH) today announced the launch of DISH Earth, a channel exclusively available to DISH Network customers, offering dramatic live views of Earth 24 hours per day, including passing views of the moon, Venus, and even unidentified flying objects. DISH Network customers can experience the camera’s live feed for free on Ch. 212 beginning this evening.

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A busy – and mixed – week for launchers

This was a busy week for launchers – and not an entirely successful one.

On Tuesday, the space shuttle Endeavour rocketed into orbit with its seven member crew. Despite some initial fears of a debris strike, a check turned up nothing of concern on the orbiter, which linked up with the International Space Station on Thursday.

That same day, an Atlas V placed a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload into polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base. This marked the first launch of the heavy-lift Atlas V from the California rocketport. Atlas V is built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

On Friday, the upper stage of a Proton M launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome malfunctioned during its second burn. The AMC-14 communications satellite was stranded in an elliptical transfer orbit with an apogee of 28,000 kilometers, far short of geosynchronous orbit.

Russian officials held out hope that the Lockheed-built DISH Network satellite could use its own engines to reach the proper orbit. The satellite’s owner, SES Americom, will need to make a decision about what to do.

Early Saturday morning, a Delta 2 rocket lit up the darkened skies as it blasted off from Cape Canaveral carrying a Block 2 GPS spacecraft. The rocket placed the Lockheed-built payload into a transfer orbit 68 minutes later. This was the second successful launch by ULA in as many days.