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FCC allows Boeing to get into the broadband satellite game

US aviation giant Boeing is finally being allowed to launch some communications satellites over four years after it first applied.

The FCC – America’s communications regulator – has granted Boeing ‘a license to construct, deploy, and operate a satellite constellation’. The stated purpose of this constellation is to provide broadband and communications services to whoever wants them in the US and globally. In that respect it will be in direct competition with SpaceX, OneWeb and Kuiper, and has some serious catching up to do.

The reason it took the FCC so long to wave this through, apart from the standard bureaucratic inertia, would appear to be that SpaceX has been attempting to throw a spanner in the works. The objections are fairly technical and, presumably, not without merit, but it still seems to have taken the FCC an inordinate amount of time to make its mind up.

“Advanced satellite broadband services have an important role to play in connecting hard-to-serve communities,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We are committed to a careful and detailed review of all such applications and I thank the International Bureau team for their work completing this first round of NGSO applications.”

Here’s what the FCC order authorization has to say about what Boeing has been granted license to do: The V-band Constellation will consist of 132 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in a circular orbit at an altitude of 1056 kilometers (km) and 15 highly inclined NGSO satellites at an altitude between approximately 27,355 and 44,221 km.  

The V-band Constellation would initially provide broadband internet and communications services to residential consumers, government and business users in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Once full deployment of the 147-satellite system is complete, the V-band Constellation would provide high speed data access to consumers on a global basis.  

SpaceX alone already has hundred, if not thousands, or LEO satellites already up and about so these 147 represent a drop in the atmosphere. Still, the Boeing bigwigs have presumably given this some thought – they’ve certainly had time to – and competition is always good for the consumer. It is going to get pretty crowded up there, though.


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