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.

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