FCC Considers Closer Orbital Spacing for DBS

The FCC is proposing new rules that would revise licensing procedures and technical rules governing direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services.

Released last Friday, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking FCC 06-120 (NPRM) applies only to the 12.2-12.7 GHz (downlink) and 17.3-17.8 GHz (feeder links) bands. The FCC imposed a freeze on new DBS applications in December 2005 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated Part IIIA of the DBS Auction Order and nullified the results of FCC Auction 52.

The NPRM devotes substantial space to the history of DBS and the methods available for licensing DBS. Prior to the freeze the FCC received requests from SES Americom to serve the U.S. from the 105.5 degree West Longitude (WL) orbital location, applications from EchoStar for a license to launch and operate a DBS satellite serving the U.S. from 86.5 degrees WL and a Petition for Declaratory Ruling filed by Spectrum Five LLC to use two Netherlands-authorized satellites at the 114.5 degree WL orbital location. The NPRM says the FCC believes current rules can be used to accommodate the filing of DBS applications at locations other than the eight orbital slots assigned to the U.S. in the ITU Region 2 Plan, although it asks for comments on whether new technical rules are necessary for processing DBS applications.

One concern, of course, is that a satellite operating with reduced spacing could cause interference to existing DBS customers using small dishes. The NPRM seeks comment on whether there is a single symmetric interference criterion that the commission could use to make findings of acceptability of interference to existing DBS systems and, if there is, "what would be the appropriate calculation methodology to determine the value of this criterion for a particular coordination, and what could be the appropriate values for any parameters, such as antenna mispointing angle, antenna pattern mask, and DBS receiver threshold level C/(N+I) level to existing DBS systems."

For information on licensing alternatives being considered by the FCC as well as technical details on the impact of reduced orbital spacing, refer to the NPRM.