On 10 November 2022, Ofcom made several spectrum announcements to further the United Kingdom's ambition to become a destination jurisdiction for space operators and supporting satellite services:

  • updated spectrum roadmap – the latest roadmap confirms Ofcom's intention to progress the new areas of spectrum-related work that it proposed in the last spectrum roadmap discussion document published in March 2022. The updated spectrum roadmap also follows its consultation process concluded earlier this year in May 2022;
  • new space spectrum strategy – this new strategy responds to rapid changes in the space sector over recent years to support harnessing the enormous potential of satellite communications services and managing spectrum efficiently into the future by striking the right balance between fostering innovation and protecting existing valuable services. Ofcom's decision to release an additional 250 megahertz of capacity for satellite services (described below) is one element of this strategy. The updated space spectrum strategy follows its consultation process concluded earlier this year in May 2022; and
  • satellite operators provided with access to an additional 250 megahertz of spectrum in the 14.25-14.5 gigahertz Ku band – this doubles the uncoordinated satellite capacity made available for satellite uplinks in the Ku band. According to industry during the consultation process, the previously limited access to between 14-14.25 gigahertz unduly constrained operators' operations compared to authorisations internationally. The additional spectrum allows operators to broaden their satellite broadband services while bringing the United Kingdom in line with how the Ku band is authorised in Europe, the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. Satellite (earth station network) licensees can request immediate access to these frequencies to support the deployment of large numbers of terminals connecting to geo-location (GEO) and non-GEO satellite services.

Also on 10 November 2022, Ofcom announced new spectrum licences granted to space operators for satellite services offered in the United Kingdom:

  • Starlink was granted six non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) earth station (gateway) licences – this will allow SpaceX to operate additional gateway earth stations in the United Kingdom, which are large dishes in fixed locations on the ground that connects Starlink's NGSO satellite network with terrestrial networks and the internet. Starlink already operates three earth station gateways in the United Kingdom. Starlink was granted NGSO earth station (network) licences for its Starlink NGSO satellite network in November 2020 and other NGSO earth station (gateway) licences in February 2022.
  • Telesat was granted an NGSO earth station (network) licence – this will allow small end-user satellite dishes to connect to Telesat's Lightspeed NGSO satellite network.

NGSO satellite networks require more earth station gateways to provide coverage in a given area than medium earth orbit or GEO satellite networks. This is because an NGSO satellite network involves low-altitude satellites with a smaller beam area, requiring more earth station gateways to ensure that any single NGSO satellite remains within range of a gateway to complete a connection with an end user terminal within its beam.

Ofcom says that these new initiatives and licence grants mean better broadband connectivity for homes and businesses in hard-to-reach rural areas, as well as on trains, in the air and at sea.

For further information on this topic please contact Marcus Bagnall at Wiggin by telephone (+44 20 7612 9612) or email ([email protected]). The Wiggin website can be accessed at www.wiggin.co.uk.