Friday, March 30, 2018

FCC issues its order to speed rollout of 5G small cells

The Federal Communications Commission issued its expected order streamlining the wireless infrastructure siting review process to facilitate the deployment of 5G small cells. The order addresses the differences between large and small wireless facilities, and clarifies the treatment of small cell deployments. Specifically, the Order:

  • Excludes small wireless facilities deployed on non-Tribal lands from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review,
  • concluding that these facilities are not “undertakings” or “major federal actions.” Small wireless facilities deployments continue to be subject to currently applicable
  • state and local government approval requirements.
  • Clarifies and makes improvements to the process for Tribal participation in Section 106 historic preservation reviews for large wireless facilities where NHPA/NEPA
  • review is still required.
  • Removes the requirement that applicants file Environmental Assessments solely due to the location of a proposed facility in a floodplain, as long as certain conditions are met.
  • Establishes timeframes for the Commission to act on Environmental Assessments.

Ajit Pai, FCC Chair, stated: "We take a giant leap forward in updating our wireless infrastructure rules.  By cutting unnecessary red tape, weíll make it substantially easier for carriers to build next-generation wireless networks throughout the United States.  That means faster and more reliable wireless services for American consumers and businesses.  That means more wireless innovation, such as novel applications based on the Internet of Things.  And ultimately, that means American leadership in 5G.  Specifically, we clarify today that small cells are inherently different from large towers.  So they shouldnít face identical regulatory review under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act.  We also streamline the process for Tribal review notifications through our Tower Construction Notification System."

In dissent, Jessica Rsosenworcel, writes: "It is not a sure thing that the United States will lead the world in 5G wireless.  In fact, the available evidence is that weíre falling behind.  If we want to lead in 5G, we unconditionally need a spectrum auction this year.  South Korea, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Romania are now leading the way with definitive plans for wireless auctions in 2018.  We do not do that here.  If we want to lead in 5G, we need policies to encourage deep fiber investments.  Our wireless facilities will need to be connected to millions of miles of fiber, requiring creative thinking about everything from permitting to securing access to rights of way.  We do not do that here.  If we want to lead in 5G, we need serious policies to address our equipment supply chain challenges.  That means developing a real plan rather than relying on opaque decisions issued from behind the closed doors of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.  We do not do that here.   If we want to lead in 5G, we need to modernize our approach to wireless infrastructure.  We need to streamline the process for the deployment of small cells because over the next eight years we will require as many as 800,000 of them.  Thatís daunting.  At the same time, we need to modernize our approach to larger wireless facilitiesóand thatís daunting, too.  A solution to this infrastructure challenge is long overdueóand while todayís decision purports to be oneóit misses the mark."

FCC approves SpaceX's NGSO Satellite System

The FCC voted authorized SpaceX to construct, deploy, and operate a proposed non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite system comprising 4,425 satellites for the provision of fixed-satellite service (FSS) around the world. 

In July 2016, OneWeb was granted approval to build a similar constellation of MEO satellites.

Two months ago, SpaceX successfully launched the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) PAZ observation satellite on behalf of Hisdesat and two satellites of its own.  Tintin A & B are the first two demonstration satellites for SpaceX's planned Starlink broadband satellite service. Both were successfully deployed into polar orbit and are communicating with Earth stations.

In regulatory filing, SpaceX has revealed that its initial system will consist of 4,425 satellites operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km).  The system will require associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations, and end-user earth stations. The system will use Ka- and Ku-Band spectrum.  SpaceX has separately filed for authority to operate in the V-Band, where the company has proposed an additional constellation of 7,500 satellites operating even closer to Earth. To implement the system, SpaceX will utilise the availability of significantly more powerful computing and software capabilities.  On the launch broadcast for the PAZ satellite, SpaceX said quite a bit of development work remains ahead on its satellite constellation plans.

See also