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Non-Geostationary-Satellite Orbit (“NGSO”)

The evolution of the richness of content broadcast by the Internet combined with an ever increasing quality of experience of users, notably in terms of instantaneity, whether this refers to the consultation of content on line or to games played by players who are far away form each other, is leading content providers and network operators to locate content remotely and to duplicate it as close as possible to users, when that makes sense.

The expansion of the Internet has led in recent years to an explosion in traffic in terms of the richness of the data transported, essentially because the streams concerned are mass market video programs, for example Netflix, Youtube, etc. The transit networks (intercontinental fibres, national networks), the backhauling networks and the access or "local loop" networks are saturated. This causes loss of packets by the routers and the necessity to retransmit the corresponding programs (television programs or video) as well as the other streams that are also impacted as a consequence and in an undifferentiated manner. The increase in the transfer time caused by these retransmissions, because of the reduced performance of the networks, leads to a deterioration of the quality as perceived by users.

To attempt to solve these problems, network operators have deployed infrastructures offering better performance in terms of data rate and making it possible to transport high volumes, but this is an endless race between increasing the capacity of the networks and the increasing richness of the content in transit over the same networks; hardly have new infrastructures been deployed than new content encoding standards become available (SDTV, HDTV, 4K, 8K, etc.).

An alternative approach has therefore been proposed by Internet players using telecommunication networks in order to offer an improved quality of experience (QoE) to end users (content access delay, content richness): dedicated storage, management, content access and user request management architectures known as content delivery network (CDN) architectures, by duplication of the content in "caches" located as near users as possible, make it possible to reduce contention in the transit networks and therefore to reduce the delay in accessing that content. These CDN have been installed in terrestrial networks and in the infrastructure networks of telecommunication operators.

Broadband terrestrial infrastructures cannot reach all subscribers, however, notably for economic reasons, the cost of deployment of optical fibres, ADSL copper networks or fourth generation (4G) or fifth generation (5G) terrestrial wireless networks potentially becoming unacceptable if the subscriber density falls too low.

Some players have therefore proposed in the past or more recently the deployment of constellations of satellites in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) i.e. in low Earth orbit at between 500 and 2000 km altitude and in medium Earth orbit at between 6000 and 20 000 km altitude. This type of solution offers a propagation delay compatible with those encountered in terrestrial networks, i.e. a few tens of milliseconds (ms) for the lowest orbits. On the other hand, the deployment of such a constellation requires use of several tens of satellites (e.g. in the O3bNetworks, Globalstar or Iridium, Skybridge satellite networks) to several hundred satellites (e.g. Teledesic or WorldVu) in order to guarantee continuity of service in the inhabited areas of the terrestrial globe. Moreover, a satellite in low earth orbit offers a limited capacity compared to a geostationary satellite in a comparable point to point configuration, but makes it possible to limit the cost of the space infrastructure by launching a plurality of satellites on each launch vehicle.

Because of their altitude and low latency, this type of satellite contributes to an efficient use of the telecommunication network, with performance comparable to that of terrestrial networks. Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites (orbiting at a distance of 35 786 km in the equatorial plane of the Earth), for their part, have the advantage of covering a large area of the surface of the Earth (up to 1/3 of that surface); the same content can therefore be received simultaneously by several hundred thousand users, even millions of users, thereby reducing the cost of transmission of the same content in the same proportion.

However, the transmission delay of a geostationary satellite (more than 500 ms between two points on the Earth for a round trip) is very much greater than the delays encountered in terrestrial networks and incompatible with real time use and with the quality of experience now encountered in terrestrial networks (a few tens of milliseconds), when the content must be downloaded via a geostationary network of this kind in an interactive context (for example when consulting a Web page via a browser). Moreover, in order to circumvent this obstacle, dedicated protocols or devices (for example the Performance Enhancement Proxy (PEP) protocol) must be used by the satellite network operators in order to integrate their solutions into terrestrial networks, often to the detriment of security.

Ku band
17.7-18.6 GHz
Ka band
26.5–40 GHz
V band
40-75 GHz
Audacy Corporation SAT-LOA-20161115-00117-3
Boeing Company SAT-LOA-20161115-00109 -602,956
Boeing Company 2--147
Karousel LLC SAT-LOA-20161115-00113 12-
Kepler SAT-LOA- 140--
Kuiper Systems LLC SAT-LOA- 3236--
LeoSat MA, Inc. SAT-PDR-20161115-00112 -84-
O3b Limited SAT-AMD-20161115-00116 -6024
OneWeb SAT-LOI-20160428-000417202,000
SpaceX - Starlink SAT-LOA-20161115-00118 4,42511,043
Space Norway AS SAT-PDR-20161115-00111 2-
Telesat Canada SAT-PDR-20161115-00108 -117117
Theia Holding A, Inc. SAT-LOA-20161115-00121120
Viasat -24

In December 2016, the Federal Communications Commission proposed to update, clarify, and streamline the regulatory framework for the operation of next generation non-geostationary-satellite orbit (NGSO), fixed-satellite service (FSS) constellations. Many of the rules applicable to NGSO FSS systems were created over a decade ago and were based on the technical characteristics of satellite constellations proposed at that time. Given recent trends in the satellite industry and changes in satellite technology, the Commission commenced this proceeding to review the rules governing NGSO FSS operations.

Proponents of a new generation of NGSO FSS systems have sought Commission authority for constellations of hundreds and thousands of satellites. By 2018 the Commission faced the possibility of authorizing eleven NGSO systems in the current Ka-band processing round, and a yet-to-be-determined number in the V-band processing round. In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted on December 14, 2016 in the above-captioned proceeding (“NPRM”), Commission proposed “revisions to certain of [its] rules and policies governing satellite services, prompted by a planned new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO), fixedsatellite service (FSS) systems” and to “update certain rules governing operation of FSS space stations in the geostationary-satellite orbit (GSO) to enable greater operational flexibility.”

The proposed networks are both more numerous and more technically diverse than those previously proposed to, and authorized by, the Commission in the Ku band or the Ka band. More specifically, the Commission is now faced with the possibility of authorizing eleven NGSO systems in the current Ka-band processing round alone, and nine NGSO systems in the V-band. The Commission has never before licensed a single stand-alone NGSO network in the V band, let alone nine stand-alone NGSO networks with well over 17,000 NGSO spacecraft.

Notably, these NGSO systems have expected lifetimes of fifteen years or more. As such, there may be no realistic opportunity to adjust that framework again in the near future. The record reflects widespread recognition of the need to ensure that NGSO system operations do not adversely impact GSO operations.

The uplink equivalent power-flux density (“EPFD”) limits proposed in the NPRM would not adequately protect GSO networks from interference generated by the NGSO systems proposed in the pending processing rounds. This interference is likely to be significant. As Inmarsat correctly observes, “currently there is no mechanism to ensure that aggregate EPFD limits will be met by all NGSO FSS systems licensed in a particular band.” Furthermore, as the Commission itself has recognized, there is no suitable methodology for apportioning aggregate EPFD “allowances” across various authorized NGSO FSS systems to ensure that GSO networks are adequately protected. Nor is a mechanism proposed to ensure that suitable aggregate limits in the space-toEarth, space-to-space, and Earth-to-space directions are honored and that critical GSO operations thus are protected.

Notably, the ITU-R single-entry limits were derived from an aggregate EPFD mask that was developed first, under the assumption that 3.5 NGSO systems would be able to share spectrum in a given band segment. More specifically, single-entry limits were designed to ensure that combined interference from those 3.5 NGSO systems would not exceed tolerable levels (as reflected in that aggregate EPFD mask).

The “3.5 network” assumption was grounded in technical analysis conducted in the 1999-2000 timeframe regarding the number of NGSO satellites that could operate simultaneously without causing prohibitive levels of self-interference. There simply is no basis for continued use of that assumption today. Indeed, in the current Ka-band processing round, the Commission is faced with the possibility of either licensing or granting United States market access to eleven NGSO FSS systems with over 5,600 spacecraft, many of which systems could contribute to the aggregate EPFD received by any given GSO FSS network from co-channel NGSO FSS operations. The same situation exists with respect to the nine NGSO systems proposed in the current V-band processing round that would have over 17,000 spacecraft. Notably, applicants have proposed constellations that vary considerably in size, orbital parameters, coverage, and functionality, and that differ from the parameters underlying the technical analysis conducted twenty years ago.

To prevent harmful “warehousing” of spectrum and orbital resources, the Commission requires NGSO licensees and market access recipients to deploy their full constellations within six years of grant. Failure to satisfy this milestone requirement renders the entire authorization void, and subjects the grantee to forfeiture of up to $5 million under the surety bond posted for the authorization. Warehousing occurs when an entity holds exclusive authorization or priority for spectrum use or an orbital position, but is unable or unwilling to deploy its authorized satellite system in a timely manner.

Such warehousing can hinder the availability of services to the public by deterring entry by another party committed and able to proceed. S The Notice proposed to relax the six-year milestone requirement for NGSO systems to afford operators greater flexibility with system design and implementation, in light of proposals to launch and operate thousands of satellites.

OneWeb, which has been granted U.S. market access for a constellation 720 satellites, urged the Commission to retain the 100 percent completion milestone to deter speculation. Others proposed a more lenient initial milestone of between 10 and 75 percent deployment at six years, with two commenters supporting a 50 percent requirement. Regarding a second milestone, parties contend that authorized systems should be fully deployed after 9 years,134 or 12 years, or that no such fixed completion milestone should be set. Instead of percentage-based milestones, some commenters argue that applicants should be able to specify their own milestone objectives based on their particular service needs.

The FCC concluded that requiring launch and operation of 50 percent of the authorized satellite system within six years of grant strikes an appropriate balance between providing flexibility for the licensee and a measure of certainty for other operators.141 If a licensee fails to meet this milestone, its authorization will be reduced to the number of satellites in use on the milestone date, and the bond will be forfeit. Operators that successfully complete the first milestone will have an additional three years to deploy the remainder of their constellation, free of bond obligations.

The domestic coverage requirement for NGSO FSS systems could be unnecessary or counterproductive. For example, among the several pending applications that request waivers of this requirement, one operator seeks to provide service in remote areas of Alaska as part of an “Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission.” Its satellite system would operate in a highly elliptical orbit chosen to maximize service to the Arctic region, but which prevents coverage of the lower United States. Another operator is currently providing low-latency satellite service to Americans at sea. The equatorial orbit of its system, however, precludes U.S. coverage at high latitudes.

Such specialized systems may be authorized by foreign administrations and intended to serve only part of the United States. The FCC did not believe it would serve the public interest to block access to these systems solely because of their specialized coverage areas, given that multiple NGSO FSS systems can share the same frequency bands. Rather, the FCC expected that the most efficient way to encourage widespread service offerings by NGSO FSS systems, including in remote and underserved areas of the United States, would be to allow both general and specialized coverage systems. The FCC therefore proposed to remove the domestic coverage requirement for NGSO FSS systems operating in all permitted spectrum bands.

On 29 March 2018 the Federal Communications Commission approved an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technology in the United States and around the world. With this action, the Commission took another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States. This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.

SpaceX proposed a satellite system comprised of 4,425 satellites and was granted authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands to provide global Internet connectivity. The Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization outlines the conditions under which SpaceX is authorized to provide service using its proposed NGSO FSS satellite constellation. Specifically, the Order specifies the conditions to ensure compliance with Commission rules, and to protect other operations in the requested frequency bands.

Over the year, the FCC approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access, particularly in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, nongeostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.

because Boeing and LeoSat, both of which filed in connection with the processing rounds initiated in July 2016 and May 2017, will not operate their proposed systems.

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Page last modified: 08-05-2021 10:09:17 ZULU