Ofcom proposes satellite broadband licensing enhancements

UK communications regulator Ofcom has published proposals to change the way it licenses new satellite broadband networks.

The regulator has outlined plans to “support competition” in the growing market for Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (NGSO) systems being deployed to connect people to the Internet particularly in rural and hard-to-reach areas.

Elon Musk-owned Space X and British government-backed OneWeb are among the companies currently in the process of launching constellations of low-orbit satellites aimed at providing high-speed broadband services to remote rural locations worldwide.

NGSO systems are more sophisticated than earlier satellite broadband networks which used ground equipment pointing at a single satellite to connect people, by contrast NGSO networks involve thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth, which satellite dishes track as they move across the sky.

Ofcom claims this can make it more complex for different NGSO satellite operators to agree how to operate their networks without them interfering with each other. With this in mind, the regulator has proposed new checks on potential interference between networks including publishing licence applications so other parties have an opportunity to raise any interference or competition concerns.

The proposals, which are open to feedback until 20th September, come ahead of Ofcom’s new Space Sector Spectrum Strategy which is due to be published this autumn.

Ofcom articlesEarlier this month, Ofcom also proposed technical conditions for spectrum licences in the 800 MHz band to “help mobile companies improve the coverage and capacity of their networks”.

Those proposals included increasing the permitted power output for the equipment mobile operators use in the band, bringing it in-line with the conditions in place for the recently awarded licenses within the 700 MHz band, alongside measures to ensure operators avoid interference with other nearby spectrum users, such as the airwaves used for Digital Terrestrial Television.

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