FCC okays combined satellite-cellular service

By : |January 31, 2003 0

WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said that it would let providers of satellite communications integrate land-based wireless service into their networks, despite wireless industry objections.

The decision will allow satellite communications companies to offer more reliable service particularly in urban areas where large buildings can often disrupt phone connections.

Until now, satellite companies were only permitted to use their airwaves for satellite systems.

The FCC said in a release 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.

“Granting additional rights to existing satellite licensees best protected those services from harmful interference and ensured the spectrum currently allocated to satellite services in these three bands was fully utilized,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement.

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.

“The FCC’s decision to give failing satellite companies new technical rights is a gigantic giveaway that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars,” Tom Wheeler, president and Chief Executive of wireless industry group Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association said.

“If free spectrum is the FCC’s answer, then the Commission should refund the billions it took from wireless carriers who played by the rules,” he said in a news release.

Satellite communications companies have argued that they need to offer customers a reliable service that can work in both remote areas and in cities in order to compete effectively with land-based wireless service providers.

Analysts said the decision would allow satellite companies to offer better emergency communications services.

© Reuters

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