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SpaceX's broadband-from-space plan gets final US nod

Apr 02 2018 08:00
Todd Shields and Dana Hull, Bloomberg

A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral on February 6. (Terry Renna, AP)

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New York - Elon Musk’s SpaceX won approval from the US Federal Communications Commission to offer broadband service from space, using a constellation of 4 425 satellites racing around the Earth in low orbits.

The action, approved in a 5-0 vote by FCC commissioners announced on Thursday, is the first approval of a US-licensed satellite constellation to deliver broadband, or fast internet service, the agency said in an emailed news release.

Satellites can help extend broadband to Americans who live in remote or hard-to-serve places where fibre optic cables and cell towers don’t reach, FCC chairperson Ajit Pai said in February, as he presented Musk’s plan for approval by fellow commissioners.

US politicians have called for improved internet service in rural areas. President Donald Trump’s infrastructure proposal lists broadband as eligible for funding, alongside traditional projects such as roads and bridges.

Satellite Constellation

SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies, requested authority to deploy and operate thousands of satellites operating about 1 110 to 1 325 kilometers above the Earth.

“This is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, said in an emailed statement.

The FCC said it earlier approved three international operators for satellite-broadband operations: OneWeb, Space Norway AS, and Telesat Canada.

In order for large broadband constellations to deliver services in the US, the FCC must approve their operations to ensure the satellites don’t interfere with other uses, and will operate in a way that lowers the risk of collisions.

spacex  |  elon musk  |  broadband
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