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

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 1, 2022
Filed under , , , , , , ,
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.

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

  1. duheagle says:

    The FCC is supposed to allocate RF spectrum in discrete blocks for discrete use cases that do not overlap or at least do not interfere.

    C, Ku and Ka bands have been reserved for satellite up- and down-links for decades. Telcos have already prevailed upon the FCC and ITU to transfer a portion of the once heavily used satellite C band to terrestrial 5G cell phone use as the use of C band by satellites has diminished in recent years. A deal has been worked out among regulators, satcom providers and terrestrial telecom providers involving replacement of extant C band comsats with newer models that use a narrowed subset of C band in order to free up a new sub-band for 5G cell phone use.

    Starlink uses 2GHz of bandwidth in the Ku band. Dish Network has also used a chunk of the Ku band for its satellite dishes for years. The Dish Network band is 500 MHz wide and overlaps the upper quarter of the band used by Starlink. This isn’t a problem when the overlapped frequency band is used by both company’s satellites as the sub-portions of their respective allocations used for up- and down-links do not collide.

    But Dish Network, whose direct broadcast TV business is rapidly crumbling away, now proposes, along with its business partners, to repurpose its bandwidth for terrestrial 5G cell phone service. This is a very different use case than that for which the spectrum in question was initially allocated. Most notably, it involves use of omni-directional broadcast at both cell tower and phone ends of a 5G link instead of a narrow beam uplink as is the case with its satellite dishes.

    Starlink says this repurposing would result in ruinous levels of interference with its equipment. Dish Network says it won’t. Much expensive legal warfare will likely ensue and – one also hopes – at least a modicum of real-world testing involving Starlink terminals and the 5G equipment Dish and partners intend to deploy. Perhaps there is a technical solution to this potential collision. Perhaps not. If there is no such technical rabbit to be pulled from the Ku band hat, then the FCC should disallow the proposed spectrum repurposing.

    At least that is what should happen. But given that Elon Musk is involved and is now high up on the progressive left’s 10 Most Wanted List, it is anything but clear that that will prove to be the case.

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