FCC approves Boeing satellites, rejecting SpaceX’s interference claims

A Boeing logo on the exterior of the company's headquarters.

Enlarge / Boeing office building in Arlington, Virginia.
Getty Images | Olivier Douliery

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The Federal Communications Commission today gave Boeing permission to launch 147 broadband satellites. While that’s a fraction of the number of satellites approved for other low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations, the decision allows Boeing to compete in the emerging LEO satellite broadband market.

“As detailed in its FCC application, Boeing plans to provide broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users in the United States and globally,” the FCC said in its announcement approving the license.

The 147 planned satellites include 132 low-Earth satellites orbiting at an altitude of 1,056 km and 15 “highly inclined satellites” that would orbit at altitudes between 27,355 and 44,221 km. The FCC authorized Boeing to conduct space-to-Earth transmissions in the 37.5–42.0 GHz frequency bands and Earth-to-space operations in the 47.2–50.2 GHz and 50.4–51.4 GHz bands.

In its 2017 application to the FCC, Boeing said its plan to operate satellites at both high and low altitudes is “a cost-effective means to achieve global coverage.” The combination will “provide high-speed broadband communications to consumers wherever they are located, while also providing the benefits of very low latency through LEO communications,” Boeing said. Boeing previously proposed a constellation that could have included nearly 3,000 satellites, but it scaled back its plans.

blasted Amazon for objecting to Starlink plans, saying that Amazon was using an “obstructionist tactic” to delay a competitor. Amazon pointed out that SpaceX itself “routinely raises concerns with respect to its competitors’ currently filed plans, including with respect to interference.”

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