1 - 15 August, 2003

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FCC approves satellite-cellular service

The Federal Communications Commission has angered the wireless industry, ruling to allow providers of satellite communications integrate land-based wireless service into their networks.

The decision is a win for satellite communications companies, opening up new markets and revenue opportunities. The decision will allow them to offer more reliable services, particularly in urban areas. To date, satellite companies were only permitted to use their airwaves for satellite systems.

The FCC outlined that certain mobile satellite services providers in three frequency bands could now provide a land-based component so they can offer high-quality service competitive with that of traditional wireless operators.

The FCC said satellite operators will have to satisfy conditions before they can get approval, including launching and operating their own satellite facilities, providing "substantial" satellite service to the public and limiting terrestrial service to the satellite system's authorized area.

The wireless industry has objected to the proposal from the beginning, citing fears that satellite companies might use their airwaves to offer land-only based service. They also say it is unfair that satellite companies can use freely received spectrum licenses for land-based service when traditional wireless operators had to pay billions for the same right.

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