Boeing’s LEO constellation hinges on V-band’s viability
WASHINGTON — Since filing its license last summer with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for a constellation of broadband communications satellites, Boeing has focused on developing some of the project’s key technologies, Bruce Chesley, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Global Broadband Systems, told reporters at a March 7 press briefing.
Boeing applied in June for an FCC license to operate between 1,396 and 2,956 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide internet access to government and commercial customers around the world. A project of that magnitude requires new technology development and carries risks. Boeing must obtain the appropriate regulatory approvals and raise enough capital to build and deploy the system, Chesley said. “We are actively working on all three of those elements,” he added.
Boeing’s proposed constellation would transmit data in the high frequency V-band, an area of the spectrum that has largely been ignored by commercial satellite communications providers.
“You don’t see a lot of commercial system development there because of the challenge of developing millimeter wave technologies and making those affordable,” Chesley said. “We have decades of experience working in millimeter wave for government systems. We feel like the technology is ready.”
Boeing plans to draw on its commercial and military satellite experience to mitigate the rain attenuation that can degrade V-band transmissions. Boeing has developed and flown digital signal processors on military and commercial satellites, including the U.S. government Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft and Intelsat’s EpicNG high-throughput satellite.
Digital processors on Boeing’s new broadband satellites will form beams and control power in ways that will make V-band part of “a viable commercial service,” Chelsey said.
Boeing is not alone in proposing a V-band communications constellation. SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, O3b Networks and Theia Holdings have all filed for FCC licenses. All that interest is prompting companies and the FCC to look for ways the firms can share spectrum efficiently.
“We think there are good methods in place to enable these systems to coexist,” Chesley said.