SpaceX’s Starlink cellular service is slated to launch next year, but the Federal Communications Commission wants assurances that the satellite-based set-up, owned by Elon Musk, won’t interfere with other satellites and telecom operations.
The FCC wants SpaceX to complete an “interference analysis” by November 17, according to an email obtained by PCMag. The agency also included a list of questions to help determine whether SpaceX’s operation application will be accepted or denied.
The analysis would provide information about possible interference in rainy or cloudy conditions, the “worst case scenario” of all satellites transmitting at once, and potential loss of service for other “authorized satellite and terrestrial operators” in an area. The FCC requested a map with “projected beam coverage” in the U.S. within the areas T-Mobile is licensed to operate on the 1990-1995 MHz and 1910-1915 MHz bands that Starlink will be using. The FCC also asked how quickly SpaceX can “cease emissions on command” if there is “harmful interference.”
The race among space-based cellular ventures is heating up, with the aim to expand the scope of coverage and eliminate more dead zones. Potential providers have encountered obstacles from rivals and agencies in the form of increased regulatory scrutiny.
Starlink – whose initiative is probably the furthest along – has been navigating its own swath of challenges over the last year.
AT&T and the Rural Wireless Association asked the FCC to further examine SpaceX’s plans for potential interference risks. Back in May, the mobile carrier filed a request with the FCC to reject SpaceX’s proposed use of T-Mobile’s spectrum through the pair’s partnership announced in August.
Last month, SpaceX hit back at the Federal Aviation Administration’s accusations that Starlink satellites posed a deadly threat if they failed to fully incinerate on reentry.
Closer to home, SpaceX only just achieved “break-even cash flow” at the beginning of November. The company has fallen short – in comparison to its initial estimations – in revenue dollars and anticipated users, but the financial benchmark indicates the company is moving the right direction. Musk’s space venture – surpassed 5,000 active Starlink satellites in low-earth orbit last month – is on track to generate $9 billion in revenue this year and grow to $15 billion in 2024. Reports suggest that Starlink could have a strong 2024 as the service becomes more widely available, which it’s already poised to do after SpaceX removed its waitlist to purchase a satellite internet subscription.
The FCC and SpaceX weren’t immediately available for comment.