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Ofcom looks to open up spectrum for satellite

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Ofcom is proposing to allow satellite operators to access more spectrum so they can provide a wider range of broadband services, including in hard-to-reach areas. Its consultation on these proposals is open until 31 August 2022.

As consumer demand for satellite services increases, the regulator said it wants to support innovation by extending spectrum access under its Earth Station Network licence to include the 14.25-14.5 GHz band.

This would double the capacity available to satellite operators in what is known as the “Ku band”, meaning they would be able to use the full 14-14.5 GHz band for their services.

Ofcom said this will support better broadband for more rural homes and businesses, as well as connecting planes and ships.

As part of this approach, new conditions would need to be introduced to protect existing radio astronomy sites making observations in the 14.47-14.5 GHz band from interference. Ofcom plans to introduce temporary conditions to protect any fixed links remaining temporarily in the band.

Separately, Ofcom has received licence applications from Starlink for six non-geostationary satellite earth stations. These are large satellite dishes on the ground that connect the satellite network to the internet.

Ofcom said it is considering Starlink’s submissions, including whether the company can coexist with other satellite systems in close proximity, and any potential risks to competition. Comments on that application are open until 19 July 2022.