FCC Approves Rules to Streamline Satellite Applications in the US

September 22, 2023

Written by Caio Castro
FCC council starts discussions on 6G
CATEGORY: Exclusives

The FCC has approved a set of rules to speed up the satellite application process in the United States. The Commission also approved a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – an action seeking comments on several possible changes to the current regulations.

The new directives establish specific timeframes for placing space and earth stations on public notice and eliminate a procedural rule that prevents consideration of requests for waiver of the International Table of Frequency Allocations.

These timelines, which are 30 days for Geostationary orbit (GSO) and Earth station and 60 days for Non-Geostationary orbit (NGSO) applications, will apply to all types of registrations and provide applicants with clarity on the review status, the Commission argues.

“Right now, we have applications for more than 56,000 satellites pending before the FCC,” said the FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at the meeting. “That is twice the number we had before this agency just four years ago. On top of that, we are seeing new applications for novel space activities like lunar landers and space antenna farms that can relay communications.”

“[The new procedures are] All aimed at providing applicants with tools and knowledge they need to get their applications filed. Our goal is to make it easier for new companies to get the authorisations they need to enter the market,” she added.

The changes will also eliminate certain rules that can delay or prevent satellite applications from being accepted for filing. Specifically, it will eliminate a rule that requires dismissing applications not in performance with the International Table of Frequency Allegations.

According to the body, this will enable staff to only consider requests for waivers on their merits rather than dismissing requests for nonperforming spectrum use.

In addition, the Commission also removed the prohibition on licensed-but-unbuilt systems for NGSO operators and created a new processing framework to add satellite points of communication under certain circumstances.

“Our FCC rules have not kept up with the pace of change in this area. At the end of the day, that contributes to a bottleneck that we really have to resolve in order to continue to allow America’s entrepreneurs to flourish,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr.

Listen to the Industry

Beyond changing rules, the FCC approved a new round of comments on potential process updates. These comments from industry players will back future modifications to the satellite application procedures. The Commission proposed the following rules:

  • Eliminate the procedural burden of printing and maintaining a paper copy of a license.
  • Change the default status of space and earth station proceedings to permit-but-disclose.
  • Create a new rule provision allowing earth station operators to apply for and receive a limited license. It would be granted under the condition that the permit will require modification before operations with a specific point of communication – unless it is already on the Permitted List and the operations fit within the specified parameters.
  • Seek comment on possible amendments to section 25.118, which allow for certain minor modifications to be made by operators without prior authorisation from the Commission.
  • Ask whether to provide a process for market access petitioners to seek the equivalent of a special temporary authority and whether to expand the window for operators to file renewal applications for existing licenses.
  • Consider further streamlining some of our coordination requirements for Earth and space station operators in instances in which the Earth Station and space station sides must engage in potentially duplicative coordination.

The full document can be accessed here.

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