RealTime IT News

FCC Revokes EchoStar Satellite License

EchoStar experienced another hitch in its broadband Internet access hopes Monday afternoon when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cancelled its Ka-band license.

The FCC's international satellite bureau cancelled the license because its records show EchoStar has not started construction of a satellite that operates on the Ka-band, the frequency found best for two-way satellite broadband communications.

Ka-band is seen as the optimal spectrum for two-way satellite Internet services. Operating on the 17.7 GHz, 21.2 GHz, 27.5 GHz and 31 GHz spectrums, the virtually unused frequencies allow for EchoStar's satellite to cover large areas in its orbit.

Marc Lumpkin, EchoStar spokesperson, said the FCC didn't read the license agreement correctly, because the company plans to have a "bird" in the air by the end of the year and providing high-speed Internet services.

"We believe they misread the contracts or that they went by a strict reading of the contract without seeing the evidence that the satellite is already completed and ready to launch this fall," he said. "We think that once they see this evidence, they'll reverse their decision."

EchoStar's DISH Network, the popular satellite TV service, operates on the Ku-band and is not affected by the ruling. But the loss of a Ka-band license would put an end to EchoStar's hopes to marry TV with broadband Internet services.

The FCC would not comment on the cancellation, but said EchoStar had 30 days to file a challenge, which would then be publicized for a 10-day comment period from the public. The satellite company then has five days to respond to the comments before the commission issues its final ruling.

Patick DeWitt, space systems president of Loral Inc., the company assembling EchoStar's satellite, said the bird was always intended to deliver a Ka-band payload.

"I can say unequivocally that the satellite, scheduled to launch this year, has ample power and thermal resources to operate the entire Ka-band payload, concurrent with the other payloads on the satellite, for the more than 15-year design life," he said.

The company has a mixed record to date in regards to TV/broadband Internet. Last week, EchoStar settled a dispute with StarBand Communications, the company it was originally using to provide Ka-band Internet services. EchoStar agreed to pay the bankrupt two-way satellite Internet service provider (ISP) $710,000 and give back the service records of 16,000 customers.

StarBand was one of two investments in Ka-band satellite companies. EchoStar also has a 12 percent ownership stake in WildBlue, a company formerly known as iSKY.

In April, EchoStar signed a strategic deal with SBC Communications to marry its DISH TV with the Bell's digital subscriber line (DSL) service to compete with cable.