FCC Stalls SpaceX’s Starlink Cellular Spectrum Expansion Request, Citing Need for Public Rulemaking Process

SpaceX has encountered a regulatory hurdle in its quest to expand the capabilities of its Starlink cellular service. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that the aerospace company must undergo a formal rulemaking process to access additional radio spectrum crucial for enhancing the service’s performance.

SpaceX had proposed to utilize radio spectrum in the 1.6GHz and 2GHz bands for its Direct-to-Cell service. This expansion was aimed at augmenting the system’s capacity, reducing latency, and broadening service coverage globally, particularly benefiting regions currently underserved by existing networks.

The additional spectrum would enable Starlink to deliver satellite connectivity directly to mobile phones, leveraging a collaboration with T-Mobile over the 1.91 to 1.995GHz bands.

However, the FCC has rejected SpaceX’s initial application on technical grounds, insisting on a formal rulemaking process, including public comments, to ensure that any allocation of spectrum does not disadvantage other users or compromise the integrity of existing services. (via PCMag)

This decision is partly rooted in previous FCC rulings granting companies like Globalstar and Iridium access to the contested spectrum bands over 15 years ago.

However, SpaceX says the satellite communication landscape has evolved significantly since then. The company argues that with advancements in technology, such as phased arrays and beam scheduling protocols, it is possible to share the radio spectrum efficiently without interfering with the operations of other satellite providers.

Stakeholders, including rival companies and the public, now have until April 25 to submit comments on the matter. This period of consultation will be crucial in determining whether SpaceX can secure the additional spectrum needed to realize its vision of a more connected world.

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