The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted final rules to create a regulatory framework for satellite-to-mobile services, part of a plan to extend the reach of wireless networks to remote areas.

Its supplemental coverage from space (SCS) framework is designed to enable partnerships between wireless operators and satellite service providers to deliver coverage in areas without terrestrial mobile connections.

The FCC stated the framework is “the first step in establishing clear and transparent processes to support these services”. It enables satellite service providers operators collaborating with terrestrial operators to seek authorisation to operate space stations “on certain licensed, flexible-use spectrum currently allocated to wireless services, provided they satisfy certain licensing prerequisites, including having a spectrum lease from a terrestrial licensee within a specified geographic area”.

Once authorised, satellite service providers could connect wireless operators’ customers outside typical coverage areas.

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel stated the rules are part of the FCC’s “single network future” vision.

“The opportunities are vast,” she noted.

“In this decision, we bring satellite and wireless communications together. We do this because their convergence can accomplish more than either network can do on its own.”

The rules also include an interim requirement for terrestrial service providers to route all SCS emergency service calls to a public safety answering point by using either location-based routing or a specialist call centre.

Along with the SCS, the FCC also adopted a proposal to seek comment on public safety issues and sought comment on issues associated with the protection of radio astronomy services.

There are numerous satellite-to-phone services in various stages of development from companies including Lynk Global, AST SpaceMobile and Starlink.

Charles Miller, co-founder and CEO of Lynk Global, applauded the FCC’s rules, telling Mobile World Live the “technology has the potential to help pull the next billion people out of poverty by extending affordable access to mobile connectivity around the globe”.