Tuesday, December 14, 2004

FCC Promotes Broadband on Planes, Ships

The FCC will auction new licenses in the 4 MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band currently dedicated to commercial air-ground service. There are three possible band plan configurations. The ultimate band configuration will be determined based on the results of the auction. However, in order to further competition and ensure maximum use of the frequency band for air-ground services, the Commission imposed an eligibility limitation to prevent a single entity from holding new licenses for all 4 MHz of air-ground spectrum.

New air-ground service may be any type (e.g., voice, data, broadband internet, etc.) and may be provided to any or all aviation markets (e.g., commercial, military, and general). The FCC decided not to authorize ancillary services in the band.

To ensure protection to adjacent public safety operations in the 800 MHz band, the FCC applied to 800 MHz air-ground licensees the same interference rules and other specific protections adopted earlier this year in the 800 MHz public safety proceeding.

In a related action today, the Commission began an inquiry into whether its ban on using cellular telephones on airborne aircraft should be modified. Verizon Airfone, the current operator in the 800 MHz air-ground spectrum, was granted a non-renewable 5-year license, subject to existing narrowband technical limits.

In a separate item, the FCC approved new licensing and service rules for satellite earth stations on vessels (ESVs) in the C and Ku bands. The rules are expected to promote the availability of broadband services on cruise ships, merchant ships, ferries, barges and other vessels. Specifically:

  • In the C-band (5925-6425 and 3700-4200 MHz) ESV operators currently share the band with the fixed terrestrial and fixed-satellite service. To protect the incumbent fixed terrestrial service, ESVs will be subject to operation and spectrum limitations and coordination requirements. To protect fixed satellite operators, the new rules have placed power limits on ESV operations.

  • In the Ku-band (14.0-14.5 and 11.7-12.2 GHz) ESV coordination with the fixed terrestrial service is not required because these operations are limited in the band. In the 14.0-14.5 GHz band, ESV coordination is required near a limited number of federal government earth stations. As in the C-band, the new rules place power limits on ESV operations to protect fixed satellite operators. ESVs will be permitted in portions of the "extended" Ku-band downlink (10.95-11.2 GHz and 11.45-12.2 GHz) and must accept all interference from fixed service operations.

For foreign registered ESVs, the Commission established a separate regulatory framework to allow communication to take place near the U.S. without causing harmful interference to domestic operations. http://www.fcc.gov

See also