Satellite Update: New DBS Location

This week the FCC authorized Spectrum Five LLC and EchoStar to provide DBS service to the U.S. from 114.5 degrees West Longitude and 86.5 degrees WL, respectively. Under the Region 2 BSS (broadcast satellite service) and feeder link plans, the United States is assigned eight orbital locations at 61.5, 101, 110, 119, 148, 157, 166 and 175 degrees.

Existing U.S. DBS operators DirecTV and EchoStar opposed the Spectrum Five petition. DirecTV argued the service at 114.5 degrees WL would interfere with its existing and future operations. EchoStar raised concerns that the triple-feed antennas it is considering for its system "complicates the interference analysis" for reduced spaced DBS satellites in the vicinity of CONUS DBS satellites.

The FCC Order and Authorization (DA 06-2439) dismissed these concerns, stating, "...we find that the Spectrum 1A and 1B satellites' proposed entry into the U.S. market for the purpose of offering DBS services in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band will enhance competition for these services in the U.S. market, including Alaska and Hawaii."

The EchoStar request for use of the 86.5 degrees WL location drew opposition from Telesat Canada and Bell ExpressVu L.P., companies involved with Canadian DBS satellites at 82 degrees WL and/or 91 degrees WL. In the Order and Authorization (DA 06-2440) granting EchoStar's application, the FCC found that granting the application was in the public interest. However, the authorization was issued "subject to the condition that EchoStar not exceed certain interference limits until it has successfully coordinated its operations with operators of adjacent and affected DBS satellites."

As discussed in a previous RF Report, the FCC has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding DBS satellite licensing and reduced DBS satellite spacing. With the grant of these requests, it appears the FCC has accepted that 4.5 degree DBS orbital spacing can work with existing systems. It will be interesting to see whether new or existing U.S. DBS operators receive the authorizations for additional orbital locations, should they become available.