RealTime IT News

FCC Wants Satellites to Share

Continuing its quest to maximize spectrum in the U.S. and keep all parties happy, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Report & Order on satellite-based broadband licensing Thursday evening.

New standards for satellite services using the shared Ku-band frequencies (10.7-14.5 GHz) were created, calling for satellite operators to share frequency when sending signals.

When orbiting 'birds' send signals to a stationary object, such as a fixed-satellite service (FSS) antenna, they often send signals simultaneously with other satellites. These satellites can be anything from the XM satellite radio service to top-secret Department of Defense communications satellites.

Under the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the data on two simultaneous feeds on the same frequency will be split in two, letting both carry the information. But it also increases the time needed to transfer large amounts of information, a rule that will please no one.

Charly Nakache, satellite group manager at e-Qual, a satellite services integrator/operator in France, said there's no easy answer to solve the interference problem in the Ku-band frequency.

"My vision of the future of space telecommunication is that we'll go into a space traffic jam," he said. "The FCC's proposal, if adopted, should be a source of interferences and high risk of geo-stationary service degradation and outages, it would be a major issue."

The FCC has spent a hectic year trying to hammer out a wireless spectrum policy in the U.S., a policy that is as territorial as any other real estate. The fight is most notable between big business and the Department of Defense (DoD), with the government caught squarely in the middle.

The advent and popularity of wireless systems in the U.S. and around the world have caused a spectrum rush throughout the world, with companies bidding billions of dollars for a piece. The space is quickly filling to the point of capacity and businesses want the government to set aside more frequencies.

The problem is there is not much space left, and most of the prime consumer-grade spectrum is in the control of the DoD for military use. Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, has no intention of letting go of any portion of the airwaves, even appointing a special under-secretary position to specifically handle spectrum issues.

The FCC has a spotty record when it comes to spectrum management. The agency caught a lot of flak for its recent handling of the NextWave bankruptcy issue, where the FCC sold the spectrum owned by the company before getting approval in the courts. The agency was forced to backpedal after the courts determined NextWave could use the spectrum as an asset.

Currently, the FCC is waiting for Congressional approval to delay the spectrum auction of analog airwaves used by the television broadcasting industry.