TAMPA, Fla. — The Federal Communications Commission has approved Boeing’s application to develop and operate 147 non-geostationary (NGSO) broadband satellites.

Boeing applied for a license for a constellation using high-frequency V-band spectrum nearly five years ago, amid a surge in NGSO applications from SpaceX, OneWeb and others.

The company is the last in the FCC’s first round of NGSO applications to get a decision on its constellation plans.

It now has six years to launch half its planned satellites to comply with regulatory rules, and nine years to deploy the rest of the constellation.

The plan involves launching 132 satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) at 1,056 kilometers, with the rest placed between 27,355 and 44,221 kilometers for global services to residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and enterprise customers.

Although more known for building large spacecraft for geostationary orbit (GEO), Boeing acquired small satellite specialist Millennium Space Systems in 2018 to bolster its expertise in the expanding NGSO market.

“Boeing sees a multi-orbit future for satellite technologies,” a Boeing official said via email.

“As the demand for satellite communications grows, diversity will be required across orbital regimes and frequencies to satisfy unique customer demands, and we see V-band as helping to provide some of that diversity. While the application was in review with the FCC, we have continued work identifying compelling use cases for V-band and maturing the underlying technology.”

V-band frequencies are higher than the Ka-band and Ku-band spectrum used by SpaceX’s Starlink — the largest NGSO broadband operator with more than 1,600 satellites in LEO.  

Using higher frequencies could enable faster broadband services, however, they also pose interference risks amid the potential for rain attenuation that can degrade V-band transmissions.

Ryan Reid, who leads Boeing’s commercial satellite programs, told SpaceNews in September that it was still looking for partners for its constellation as it awaited FCC approval.

As well as permitting Boeing to provide fixed-satellite services in portions of V-band, the FCC approval allows the company to operate inter-satellite links in certain V-band frequencies.

However, the FCC dismissed Boeing’s request to operate inter-satellite links in Ka-band and other parts of the V-band to address concerns it had received in the application process.

SpaceX had warned in 2019 that Boeing’s proposed constellation risked creating harmful interference with other megaconstellations.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...