Row 44 Receives OK for Ku-band Aircraft Space Stations

Passengers on select Alaska and Southwest airline flights will continue to have in-flight Internet access, at least until July 15, thanks to an Order and Authorization (DA 09-1078) from the FCC International Bureau's Satellite division extending Row 44's special temporary authority (STA) to operate up to 12 Aeronautical Mobile Satellite Service aircraft earth stations for an additional 60 days.

Row 44 uses two-way way links with Ku-band satellites Horizon 1 (127 degrees West Longitude), AMC-2 at 101 degrees W.L., and AMC-9 at 83 degrees W.L. to provide in-flight Internet access. Row 44 had been operating under 60-day STA granted in February. In an agreement with licensed operators of Ku-band satellites near these satellites, Row 44 promised to share information with these operators concerning the operational details and results of the tests. The operators included Intelsat, SES Americom and EchoStar. Row 44 submitted the ground-based test report on April 13, 2009 and the mobility test report on May 11, 2009.

In its request for an extension of STA, Row 44 maintained that granting the extension will serve the public interest by enabling Row 44 and the cooperating airline companies to continue gathering useful performance and operations data under a variety of circumstances. Intelsat, SES Americom and EchoStar supported the extension request, but ViaSat opposed it, arguing Row 44 had ample time to conduct in-flight testing and that operation for the purposes of market research is beyond the scope of previously granted authority and cannot justify an extension.

At the request of Row 44, the FCC removed a restriction on uplink operation when the aircraft is on or near the ground, provided Row 44 has appropriate safety protocols in place to ensure that persons with access to areas within 14 meters of the antenna are not exposed to RF energy above the commission's established maximum permissible exposure limits. The exterior of the aircraft earth-station antenna also has to be prominently marked with a sign warning of the potential for exposure to high levels of RF energy.

Refer to the Order and Authorization (DA 09-1078) for additional conditions for operation under this STA.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.