FCC Authorizes Boeing’s 132 Satellite Broadband Constellation

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2021 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today approved an application from The Boeing Company for a license to construct, deploy, and operate a satellite constellation. As detailed in its FCC application, Boeing plans to provide broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users in the United States and globally.

“Advanced satellite broadband services have an important role to play in connecting hard-to-serve communities,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We are committed to a careful and detailed review of all such applications and I thank the International Bureau team for their work completing this first round of NGSO applications.”

Today’s Order approves Boeing’s application for non-geostationary orbit fixed-satellite service system using frequencies in portions of the V-band (the 37.5-40, 40-42, 47.2-50.2 and 50.4-51.4 GHz bands), and to operate inter-satellite links (ISLs) using frequencies in portions of the V-band (65-71 GHz band). It also dismisses Boeing’s request to operate ISLs in certain frequency bands that are not allocated internationally for operations of the FSS in the space-to-space direction in the ITU Radio Regulations.

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 Makes Available Over $163 Million for Broadband in 21 States, While Continuing to Clean Up the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Program

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2021 (FCC PR) — The FCC today announced that it is ready to authorize $163,895,636 to 42 providers in the second round of funding for new broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The Commission is also continuing its work to refocus the program to ensure that funding goes to unserved areas that need broadband. As part of that process, 85 winning bidders have chosen not to pursue buildout in 5,089 census blocks in response to letters the FCC sent asking applicants to review their bids in areas where there was evidence of existing service or questions of potential waste.

“More help is on the way to households without broadband,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This is an important program for getting more Americans connected to high-speed internet, and we are continuing careful oversight of this process to ensure that providers meet their obligations to deploy in areas that need it.”

In this funding wave, 42 broadband providers will bring fiber-to-the-home gigabit broadband to approximately 65,000 locations in 21 states over the next 10 years. The Commission continues to closely review long-form applications of other winning bidders that were previously announced to ensure they meet the technical, financial, and operational capabilities to comply with program obligations.

In July, the Commission sent letters to 197 winning bidders offering providers an opportunity to withdraw their funding requests from places where there was evidence of service or where questions of waste have been raised. In response to these letters, numerous winning bidders have conducted new due diligence on the areas in question, and many have decided not to pursue support in the identified areas.

Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas Call for Standards to Avoid Spectrum Interference

Eddie Bernice Johnson

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) — Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), along with Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), sent letters to the Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing concerns about out-of-band emission (OOBE) limits to protect the integrity of global weather forecasting, satellite-based climate measurements, and ground-based radio astronomy observations in the 23.6-24 GHz band.

“We urge the FCC to modify section 30.203 of its rules to fully conform its domestic OOBE limits for the 24 GHz band with the international limits articulated in Resolution 750,” said Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas in the letter. “We also ask that FCC pay particular attention to the docket filings by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, National Academies’ Committee on Radio Interference, American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, and National Weather Association on implementation questions that would have a significant impact on reducing the threat of harmful interference with passive earth science observations.”

The Chair and Ranking Member continued, “We thank you for examining these technical questions carefully in its efforts to craft a final rule that is adequately protective of Earth Exploration Satellite Service (EESS).  The issues associated with the 24 GHz band are not unique. The FCC is considering spectrum auctions that could affect other bands currently protected for scientific purposes and used by federal agencies.”

A copy of the letters can be found here:

FCC Provides $311 Million for Broadband in 36 States, Takes Steps to Clean up Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Program

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2021 (FCC PR) — The FCC today took its first steps to move forward with funding new broadband deployments across the country through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The FCC announced that it is ready to authorize over $311 million in broadband funding across 36 states through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. At the same time, the agency took steps to clean up issues with the program’s design originating from its adoption in 2020.

“This is a significant down payment on broadband deployment,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Today’s announcement means that help is on the way for hundreds of thousands of Americans without access to broadband.”

Today’s action represents the first funding to be approved through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. As a result of today’s announcement, 48 broadband providers will bring 1 Gbps broadband speeds to nearly 200,000 homes and businesses over the next 10 years.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Fun with Figures: Move Over Starlink, Here Comes China’s Satellite Mega-Constellation

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Chinese government recently formed a company to develop a satellite mega-constellation that would exceed SpaceX’s rival Starlink communications network in size, according to media reports.

The newly created China Satellite Network Group Co. will oversee the development of a communications satellite constellation that will include 12,992 satellites. China has filed for spectrum allocation for the constellation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The Chinese constellation would be the largest in the world with 1,049 more satellites than the 11,943 Starlink satellites approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Together, the Chinese and Starlink satellites would place 24,935 satellites into Earth orbit.

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SpaceX Lays Out Plan for Starship Orbital Flight Test

Super Heavy/Starship system in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX has laid out plans to launch its Starship vehicle on a 90-minute flight test from Boca Chica, Texas, to a soft ocean landing about 100 km (62 miles) off the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The flight would take place no earlier than June 20.

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SpaceX Launches 60 More Starlink Satellites

Credit: SpaceX

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. — On Wednesday, March 24 at 4:28 a.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink broadband satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

It was SpaceX’s ninth launch and the 25th launch worldwide of 2021. Seven Falcon 9 boosters have launched 420 Starlink satellites into orbit this year.

SpaceX has now launched 1,385 Starlink satellites, with 1,321 currently in orbit. Elon Musk’s company has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites to provide broadband services worldwide.

This was the sixth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously supported launch of GPS-III Space Vehicle 03, Turksat 5A, and three Starlink missions.

One half of Falcon 9’s fairing supported the Sentinel-6A mission and the other supported a previous Starlink mission.

Umbra Hits Regulatory “Jackpot” for its Satellite Constellation Able to See a Soda Can from Space

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Umbra PR) — Umbra, a geospatial intelligence data provider, was granted a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite with 1,200 MHz of bandwidth. This bandwidth allocation will allow them to generate images with as low as 15-centimeter (6 inch) ground sampling distance (GSD). At this resolution, Umbra’s satellites will be able to detect items as small as a soda can from space.

Umbra is the first commercial satellite provider in U.S. history to receive a license enabling this level of capability from space. Umbra, which recently raised $32 million, pushed their chips “all in” on capability and patented technology, which had never been attempted by a commercial firm or approved by a U.S. regulatory body.

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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.”

Satellite Companies Can Bid for $9 Billion in Mobile Wireless Subsidies

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Satellite companies will be able to bid for up to $9 billion in subsidies over the next decade under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 5G Fund for Rural America if they can meet a high standard for 5G mobile wireless service.

“We believe that adopting a round-trip latency requirement of 100 milliseconds or better for all areas better achieves our goal of ensuring access to services reasonably comparable to those in urban areas,” the FCC said. “One of the key benefits of 5G over other mobile technologies is reduced latency.”

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SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites on 100th Successful Mission

SpaceX launched 60 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 on Saturday, completing the company’s 100th successful launch since the first successful Falcon 1 launch in September 2008.

The 15th dedicated Starlink flight brought to the number of constellation satellites launched to 895. A number of satellites have been deorbited or failed.

Falcon 9 lifted off at 11:31 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launching for the third time, Falcon 9’s first stage touched down on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage previously flew for the GPS III 03 mission in June 2020 and a Starlink mission in September 2020. 

Starlink is designed to provide fast broadband service across the globe. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given Elon Musk’s company permission to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites. SpaceX has applied to raise that number by 30,000 to 42,000.

The company has been conducting a private beta test of the Starlink constellation. Musk has said SpaceX will begin a public beta test soon.