The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US is looking to open up the 17 GHz band for the next generation of geostationary satellites after a petition from a European satellite operator. It is also looking at opening up the 27 GHz and 28 GHz bands.
“The U.S. commercial satellite industry has enjoyed substantial growth in recent years, dominating market share for satellite manufacturing and launch services in 2019,” said Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC. “Satellite launches are on the rise, as are throughput speeds and data capacity. Indeed, as we enter a new space age, one might say that “the sky’s the limit” in terms of satellite systems’ potential for expanding connectivity and bridging the digital divide.”
The FCC is looking for comments on proposed changes to the U.S. Table of Frequency Allocations to and the Commission’s rules aimed at encouraging more efficient use of spectrum from 17.3 to 17.8 GHz. This has come from a petition from European satellite operator SES Americom.
The Commission is also seeking comment on defining frequency bands to be included in an “extended Ka-band” from 17.3 to 18.3 GHz, 18.8 to 19.4 GHz, 19.6 to 19.7 GHz, 27.5 to 28.35 GHz, and 28.6 to 29.1 GHz frequency bands in the extended Ka-band. This does not apply to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) boradband constellations such as SapceX or OneWeb that operate in the Ka band, although SES is also planning a constellation of 36 LEO satellites alongside its GEO and medium orbit constellations.
The changes would provide more capacity and operational flexibility for satellite communications while at the same time protecting existing services sharing the band from harmful interference says the FCC.
“This investment and innovation in space-based services has led to increased demand for spectrum to be used by satellite systems. As a result, ensuring that we have efficiently allocated sufficient spectrum for satellite services is vital to this industry’s continued success,” said Pai.
“We advance this objective by initiating a proceeding aimed at permitting Geostationary Orbit (or GSO) space stations in the Fixed Satellite Service to use the 17.3 to 17.7 GHz band on a co-primary (or co-equal) basis for downlink communications, as well as the neighbouring 17.7 to 17.8 GHz band for FSS downlink communications on a non-protected basis. Combined, these changes would increase intensive and efficient use of the 17.3 to 17.8 GHz band by expanding downlink capacity for high-throughput satellite communications. This should facilitate the deployment of advanced satellite systems, and consumers stand to benefit from expanded use of the 17.3 to 17.8 GHz band and the routine processing of applications for licenses.”
This is also an opportunity for space-qualified microwave component suppliers.
“The satellite industry is expected to continue growing at a record-setting pace, and the Commission’s proposed changes would help operators to hit the ground running with greater spectrum flexibility and a streamlined licensing process.”