By a unanimous vote yesterday, the FCC granted the request of WorldVu Satellites Limited d/b/a OneWeb to access the U.S. market through deployment of a planned constellation of 720 non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) fixed satellite service (FSS) spacecraft which will operate in the Ka- and Ku-bands and expand broadband connectivity throughout the U.S. and worldwide by the early 2020s.

Last year, Softbank of Japan invested $1 billion for a 40% stake in OneWeb, and the company’s other investors include Qualcomm, Airbus and Boeing. In a press release issued in connection with yesterday’s vote, the FCC noted that OneWeb “was the first of several entities” during the past year “to file a request seeking FCC authority to deploy a large constellation of NGSO FSS satellites to provide ubiquitous broadband services.” At yesterday’s FCC open meeting, FCC International Bureau Chief Tom Sullivan remarked that, while none of the NGSO FSS systems approved by the FCC in a similar processing round 15 years ago were ever launched, recent improvements in satellite technology have made it possible for companies such as OneWeb to offer new and more cost effective opportunities to extend satellite-based broadband services into remote areas. Sullivan also confirmed that the FCC is now reviewing eleven other NGSO FSS proposals filed in response to OneWeb’s request as well as nine additional applications for proposed satellite systems in the V-band.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters that the OneWeb grant order “lays the foundation for deployment of future low-earth orbit satellites while establishing carefully measured standards to ensure that these NGSO constellations will not interfere with their terrestrial or geostationary counterparts.” To provide equal access to future NGSO FSS systems in the spectrum bands in which OneWeb will operate, and to protect adjacent terrestrial and geostationary satellite service incumbents, the order imposes power limits and other conditions. Approval is also conditioned on the outcome of a separate, pending rulemaking proceeding in which the FCC is examining the possibility of opening the 12.2- 12.7 GHz band for new broadband services. Proclaiming that the FCC’s vote represents “the first of its kind for satellite systems like OneWeb,” Greg Wyler, the executive chairman of OneWeb, applauded the FCC’s “efforts and vision to make affordable Internet access available for everyone.”