FCC denies spectrum request for Starlink’s mobile service

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SpaceX’s plans to expand Starlink to provide mobile services have encountered a roadblock as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dismissed the company’s application to use several spectrum bands.

Starlink – the satellite internet division of SpaceX – is seeking approval to use up to 7,500 second-generation satellites with spectrum in the 1.6 GHz, 2 GHz, and 2.4 GHz bands to provide mobile services.

However, the FCC’s Space Bureau ruled this week that SpaceX’s application was “unacceptable for filing” as it did not comply with existing regulations that prohibit the use of these bands for additional mobile-satellite service (MSS) applications.

“The SpaceX requests do not substantially comply with Commission requirements established in rulemaking proceedings which determined that the 1.6/2.4 GHz and 2 GHz bands are not available for additional MSS applications,” the FCC stated in its order.

While this decision deals a temporary setback to SpaceX’s mobile ambitions, the company still has a path forward.

The FCC also issued public notices seeking comment on SpaceX’s petitions to revise the spectrum-sharing rules for these bands. However, SpaceX will need to overcome opposition from companies like Dish Network and Globalstar and prove that its plan will not cause harmful interference to existing systems.

The FCC’s ruling does not affect SpaceX’s partnership with T-Mobile, which uses T-Mobile’s licensed 1.9 GHz spectrum band. The companies have already demonstrated the first text messages sent between T-Mobile phones via a Starlink satellite and plan to launch texting services for T-Mobile users in 2024, followed by voice and data services later on.

Despite the setback, SpaceX appears determined to expand Starlink’s capabilities beyond its current fixed broadband service. With its constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites, the company aims to provide global mobile connectivity.

(Image Credit: SpaceX under CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED license)

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