Just days after granting the request of OneWeb to access the U.S. market through a constellation of 720 non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) fixed satellite service (FSS) spacecraft that would expand broadband connectivity worldwide by the early 2020s, the FCC began the work this week of reviewing comments, filed by affected satellite system operators, that address other NGSO proposals filed in response to the OneWeb application. Although many of these comments ask the FCC to deny or impose conditions on certain NGSO operations proposed by specific applicants, the importance of protecting existing geostationary orbit (GSO) systems from NGSO interference stood out as a common theme.
When announcing its acceptance of the OneWeb application last year, the FCC published a “cut-off notice” which opened a processing round for additional NGSO FSS systems in the following frequency bands: 10.7-12.7 GHz, 14.0-14.5 GHz, 17.8- 18.6 GHz, 18.8-19.3 GHz, 27.5-28.35 GHz, 28.35-29.1 GHz, and 29.5-30 GHz. Last month, the FCC solicited stakeholder comment on ten competitive applications that were filed in response to last year’s cut-off notice. Among others, these applicants include: (1) Telesat Canada, (2) Boeing, (3) Space Norway AS, (4) O3b Limited, a subsidiary of SES S.A. which is based in the United Kingdom, and (5) Netherlands-based LeoSat MA.
ViaSat Inc.—which had also submitted an NGSO FSS application on which feedback was requested—told the FCC that it was filing comments “in its capacity as an operator of Ka-band GSO networks.” To ensure that existing GSO networks “are adequately protected from any single proposed NGOS system,” ViaSat told the FCC that it should provide each NGSO applicant “authority based on precisely what it had requested in the underlying application—but not more.” ViaSat also said the FCC could address risks of harmful interference from the simultaneous co-frequency operation of multiple NGSO systems by (1) conditioning grants on the outcome of pending rulemaking proceedings that would facilitate the deployment of new NGSO FSS systems, and (2) “making clear that, unless and until suitable aggregate limits and related enforcement mechanisms are adopted, each and every NGSO operator is responsible for immediately implementing whatever technical or operational changes are necessary to protect GSO operations.”
Along a similar vein, SES and O3b emphasized that, “prior to acting on the Ku/Ka-band NGSO filings, the Commission must ensure that each applicant has demonstrated how it will protect GSO networks from interference.” As it called on the FCC to “defer consideration of requests for relief from system construction and operation milestones,” SES and O3b argued that the Commission “must impose clear requirements regarding any future NGSO system’s obligation to share spectrum with other co-frequency NGSO operations.”