Tuesday, December 7

Satellite internet’s other space race: why Starlink, Amazon and Boeing will lose their license if they don’t deploy their network on time

Starlink is becoming famous for the massive launch of satellites that it has been carrying out since the deployment of its constellation began to offer internet from space in 2019. It is not for less, since it has launched up to 300 in just over a month and has put about 2,000 into orbit in two years. A frenetic pace that could well be the result of the well-known eccentricity of its founder, Elon Musk, but which is actually a race against time against itself, since if your entire network is not extended by 2026 you will lose the license, you will not be able to offer your service and everything invested will go to waste.

And the same happens with the other two large companies that have announced their massive broadband satellite internet projects: Amazon, through Project Kuiper, it must have all the 3,236 satellites that make up its constellation deployed by 2029, and Boeing will have to put the 147 that make up its network into orbit by 2030.

These deadlines, which will affect any company that wants to deploy a satellite internet constellation, were established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference. In this meeting it was decreed that the 10% of any constellations in the fixed, mobile and broadcasting-satellite services in the traditional Ku and Ka frequency bands, as well as in the upper Q and V bands, must be in orbit within the first two years after initiation of the deployment, followed by 50% in five years and 100% in seven years, as he explains the ITU itself on its website.

The International Telecommunications Union decided to set these limits to ensure that the companies applying for the licenses were serious. “This regulation is necessary to avoid the reservation or hoarding of the orbit-spectrum resources that will not be finally used. It ensures, therefore, for a rational, equitable, efficient and economic use of the radioelectric spectrum and the orbit-spectrum resources ”, explain to Xataka from the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructures of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.

Therefore, the delay in the deployment of broadband internet satellite networks would mean “cancellation of the assignment of all frequencies that have not been put into service within the foreseen term ”, continue these same ministerial sources.

The deadline of Amazon expires in 2029 because it will begin to deploy its constellation in 2022While Boeing, which has not officially reported when it will start launching its satellites, it appears that it will do so from 2023.

Starlink opens the beta in Spain: these are its conditions and prices

Why the ITU licenses

The International Telecommunications Union is an organism of the United Nations (UN) specialized in telecommunications and in charge of regulating them at the international level. Given the cross-border nature of space services, it was established that ITU was in charge of both the legal framework for the deployment of the satellite internet constellations and the licensing to offer this service.

However, once the network has been deployed and the satellites are operational, companies will also must obtain the relevant authorizations from national administrations for the use of frequencies to communicate with satellites. In Spain, the person in charge of this task is the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructures of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.


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