TAMPA, Fla. — The United Kingdom launched a public consultation June 21 under a recently strengthened licensing regime to consider Starlink’s expansion plans.

SpaceX is seeking to deploy six more gateways in England to meet user demand and improve network resiliency for its non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) broadband constellation.

Starlink already has three gateways across the British Isles, which were approved before Ofcom updated NGSO regulations in December to add new checks on interference and competition risks.

A consultation process was not part of the approval process for the earlier gateways. The regulator also does not typically run consultations for the majority of other spectrum licenses it issues, with NGSO now being the exception.

Ofcom set a July 19 closing date for responses to the consultation on Starlink’s request for six NGSO Earth station licenses. 

In addition to Ka-band uplink frequencies that fall within part of the spectrum available under an NGSO gateway license, Ofcom said Starlink wants to use 28 GHz spectrum that was auctioned off in 2006 to terrestrial connectivity operators.

“SpaceX have confirmed that they have the necessary commercial arrangements with 28GHz Licence Holders in the locations they are seeking to operate,” Ofcom said in the consultation document.

SpaceX is the only company currently operating NGSO gateways in the U.K., according to Ofcom.

An Ofcom spokesperson said SpaceX’s request to operate more gateways is also the first application it has received under its new licensing procedures.

Besides Starlink, Ofcom said U.K.-based OneWeb and Canada’s Kepler Communications have NGSO Earth station licenses in the country, but none of them are currently deploying terminals in Ka-band.

Ofcom said it does not think SpaceX’s application will block potential gateways from other NGSO operators, and also presents few competition risks.

“Our preliminary assessment is that granting these licences would increase the availability of high-quality broadband services, which would be beneficial for UK consumers,’ the regulator said.

Ofcom anticipates making a decision on whether to approve SpaceX’s application by September 15.

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...