FCC Adopts Rules Aimed at In-flight Satellite Services

by

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules Dec. 20 that it says will facilitate the development of satellite-based Internet services for aircraft passengers in the United States.

In a Report and Order released Dec. 28, the FCC established technical standards and licensing rules for so-called Earth stations aboard aircraft, allocating Ku-band frequencies for links between geostationary-orbiting satellites and antennas mounted on the outside of aircraft. The rule requires operators of airborne terminals to coordinate with space research and radio-astronomy services to avoid interference.

Satellite-to-aircraft downlinks are given priority in the 11.7-12.2 gigahertz frequency band, with uplinks in the 14.0-14.5 gigahertz assigned secondary status, according to the FCC document. The FCC also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would give aircraft-to-satellite uplinks primary status in the 14.0-14.5 band, the document says.

“These rules will enhance competition in an important sector of the mobile telecommunications market in the United States and promote the widespread availability of Internet access to aircraft passengers,” the FCC said. Since 2001, links between aircraft and geostationary satellites were licensed on a case-by-case basis, the FCC said, adding that the adoption of formal licensing standards and procedures will speed processing times by as much as 50 percent.