The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a request by aerospace company SpaceX to deliver internet service using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, rejecting concerns raised by AT&T and Dish Network.
SpaceX required the FCC to approve an amendment to its operating licence before it could deploy LEO satellites, which it wants to use to deliver internet connectivity under the Starlink brand.
Dish Network and AT&T had urged the FCC to delay approval until more data was gathered about potential interference in the 12.2GHz to 12.7GHz band, which both use to offer satellite TV services.
But FCC Commissioners concluded interference was unlikely to be a big problem, noting in an approval document SpaceX’s plan to lower the altitude of its satellites and power flux density emissions mitigated any expected increase in interference caused by a reduction in its “earth station antenna elevation angles”.
A request by Dish Network for the 12GHz band to be allocated to 5G services will be considered at a later time, the FCC stated, adding SpaceX must be prepared for potential sharing.
Consumer demand appeared to be a factor in the FCC’s decision: it noted it received numerous letters from people living in the state of Alaska regarding the potential for Starlink to deliver fast internet services, particularly in areas which are far from mobile towers or fibre connectivity.
The FCC added SpaceX’s plan to employ LEO birds will “improve the experience for users”, highlighting “often underserved polar regions”.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has repeatedly said Starlink has the potential to bring high-speed internet to people living in remote areas not served by traditional providers.