FCC Aims to Foster Satellite-Mobile Cooperation

Inside Towers has reported on numerous satellite and mobile service carriers teaming up to provide satellite-delivered cell phone service to consumers. Now, the FCC wants to make it easier for such companies to accomplish this.

The Commission plans to vote next month on proposed rules to encourage more cooperation between satellite operators and carriers to ensure wireless service is available in remote, unserved or underserved areas. Commission authorization would let satellite operators use flexible-use spectrum allocated to terrestrial services. 

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel says the point is to harness satellites to enhance or supplement mobile phone services. “Wireless carriers have increasingly begun collaborating with satellite operators to make sure smartphone users stay connected even in areas where there is no terrestrial mobile service. This connectivity can help facilitate life-saving rescues in remote locations and the innovative opportunities it presents will only grow.”  

In a draft of the proposed rules, the agency intends to add a mobile-satellite service allocation to a class of terrestrial flexible-use bands that have no primary, federal or non-federal satellite allocations, to permit satellites to provide Supplemental Coverage from Space (SCS) to terrestrial networks. It proposes to allow operators authorized for non-geostationary orbit satellite operation to apply to modify its authorization and lease spectrum from a terrestrial licensee. The carriers would also need to have a part 25 blanket earth station license on file covering all of the subscribers’ terrestrial devices involved in the provision of SCS.

If adopted, the FCC would seek comment on how best to facilitate access to the nation’s emergency response system including 911 and Wireless Emergency Alerts. It would ask whether actions are needed to promote supplemental satellite coverage to terrestrial devices outside of the proposed SCS framework, especially to reach consumer devices in spectrum already allocated for mobile satellite service communications.  

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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