Advanced Television

FCC proposes satellite-to-phone regulatory framework

March 17, 2023

By Colin Mann

The US Federal Communications Commission has proposed a new regulatory framework to facilitate innovative collaborations between satellite operators and wireless companies. These partnerships leverage the growth in space-based services to connect smartphone users in remote, unserved, and underserved areas.

Numerous such collaborations have launched recently, and the FCC seeks to establish clear and transparent processes to support supplemental coverage from space. It says that connecting consumers to essential wireless services where no terrestrial mobile service is available can be life-saving in remote locations and can open up innovative opportunities for consumers and businesses.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted proposes a framework through which satellite operators collaborating with terrestrial service providers would be able to obtain FCC authorisation to operate space stations on certain currently licensed, flexible-use spectrum allocated to terrestrial services. The Commission is proposing to add a mobile-satellite service allocation on some terrestrial flexible-use bands.

The FCC proposes allowing authorised non-geostationary orbit satellite operators to apply to access terrestrial spectrum if certain prerequisites are met, including a lease from the terrestrial licensee within a specified geographic area. A satellite operator could then serve a wireless provider’s customers should they need connectivity in remote areas, for example in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, Lake Michigan, the 100-Mile Wilderness, or the Uinta Mountains.

The FCC will also seek comment on how this framework might best support access to emergency response systems such as 911 and Wireless Emergency Alerts when a consumer is connected via supplemental coverage from space. The new proceeding will also seek to build a record on whether the framework can be extended to other bands, locations, and applications that might be supported by such collaborations.

“Our approach is designed to make it easier for satellite operators collaborating with terrestrial providers to obtain authorisation for converged services,” explained Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Chairwoman. “By providing clear rules, I believe we can kick start more innovation in the space economy while also expanding wireless coverage in remote, unserved, and underserved areas. We can make mobile dead zones a thing of the past. But even better, we have an opportunity to bring our spectrum policies into the future and move past the binary choices between mobile spectrum on the one hand or satellite spectrum on the other. That means we can reshape the airwave access debates of old and develop new ways to get more out of our spectrum resources.


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