US looks to open up 17GHz, 27GHz spectrum for satellite broadband

November 23, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
US looks to open up 17GHz, 27GHz spectrum for satellite broadband
The US FCC is looking to open up spectrum at 17GHz, 27GHz and 29GHz for broadband services from geostationary satellites

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US is looking to open up the 17GHz band for the next generation of geostationary satellites after a petition from a European satellite operator. It is also looking at opening up the 27GHz and 28GHz 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 17.3-17.8 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, 18.8-19.4 GHz, 19.6-19.7 GHz, 27.5-28.35 GHz, and 28.6-29.1 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

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