FCC modernises satellite licensing process
September 27, 2023
By Chris Forrester
The FCC is updating and modernising its satellite and teleport/Earth station licensing process. It says the move is designed to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the space industry.
The FCC has approved a Report and Order to accelerate existing processes for licensing satellite and earth stations. Noting an “increase in complexity and number” of space and satellite-related applications, the Order establishes timelines for placing new applications on public notice and eliminates existing rules that prevent consideration of certain space station applications. Also, a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) invites comment on additional streamlining proposals.
The Order and FNPRM are among the “the first of a series of measures that [the FCC] will undertake to improve the Space Bureau’s processes and procedures.” Comments on the FNPRM are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due 60 days thereafter.
The Order adopts new timelines for the initial review of space and earth station applications. Specifically, the Order establishes a timeline of 30 days for earth station or geostationary satellite orbit (GSO) space station applications, and 60 days for non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) space station applications, for Space Bureau staff to either (1) determine that the application is acceptable for filing and place it on public notice, or (2) “notify the applicant that the staff has identified questions, errors, or omissions, and that the application will not be placed on public notice under after [these concerns] are addressed by the applicant to the satisfaction of the Bureau.” While “expect[ing] Space Bureau staff to act on applications consistent with the specific timelines,” the Order “recognise[s] that unusual circumstances may prevent such timely action.”
The Order adopts a new streamlined process for a limited set of earth station operators to add satellite points of communications via a 35-day auto grant process. These applications will be deemed granted 35 days after being found acceptable for filing and placed on public notice.
Law firm Wiley Rein, in its summary of necessary actions to qualify for this fast track processing, says the application must::
· Be unopposed;
· Be in a band that is not shared with federal or terrestrial wireless users;
· Request only that points of communication be added (e., the application cannot also request other modifications);
· Demonstrate that the addition of a new point of communication will not cause transmissions to exceed the maximum effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP), EIRP density, and bandwidth prescribed for an already authorised emission; and
· Must not cause the earth station to repoint its antennas beyond any coordinated range.