FCC Clears Additional Spectrum for 17/25 GHz Satellites

Fifteen years ago, the 1992 World Administrative Radio Conference adopted an additional allocation for the broadcast satellite service in Region 2. Eight years later, in 2000, the FCC implemented, in large part, this BSS allocation. On April 1, 2007, these new allocations took effect, providing new BSS spectrum in the 17.3-17.7 GHz band, on a primary basis, for downlink transmissions. The 17.7-17.8 GHz portion of the WARC allocation was reserved for relocation of displaced fixed links. The 24.75-25.05 GHz band was allocated for fixed satellite service for BSS feeder uplinks only. An additional 200 MHz of spectrum was allocated on a co-primary basis with the 24 GHz fixed service.

Last week in Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) FCC 07-76 the FCC adopted rules that will allow processing of applications for BSS satellites in these bands filed by DirecTV Enterprises LLC, Pegasus Development DBS Corp., EchoStar Satellite LLC, and Intelsat North America LLC as well as set procedures for new applicants.

The new BSS rules are revolutionary in that they allow 4 degree satellite spacing, which is much less than the 9-degree spacing for existing DBS satellites. They set standards for receive antenna performance, requiring a minimum 45 cm dish size (about 18 inches). Satellite users will have the option to use smaller antennas, but if the antenna does not perform as well as the 45 cm antenna they will have to accept any interference from other satellites.

The new BSS spectrum is shared with other users. A large part of the NPRM is devoted to questions about how the new BSS operations will protect existing DBS operations and how they will avoid interference from DBS uplinks and government operations.

It will be interesting to see how this new BSS service is used. Two-way Internet access? More HDTV channels? Spectrum sharing could complicate two-way access to these satellites. The FCC is seeking comments on how best to implement the sharing.