TAMPA, Fla. — International regulators are set to allow technical studies for changing satellite transmission power limits on the condition that there would not be any regulatory action resulting from them until at least 2031.

The compromise follows weeks of talks about reviewing Equivalent Power Flux Density (EPFD) limits, a divisive issue in the space industry affecting how powerful non-geostationary (NGSO) satellite signals should be to avoid disrupting geostationary spacecraft.

NGSO newcomers including SpaceX and Amazon argue that EPFD rules are outdated after being created more than a decade ago, constraining their constellation plans more than necessary to protect satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO).

Viasat, SES, and other GEO operators warn changing the rules would disrupt the stability of a regulatory regime that has allowed space businesses to proliferate in recent years.

A proposal to review EPFD limits was on the agenda at the WRC-23 conference that got underway Nov. 15 in Dubai, a quadrennial event run by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union to update global spectrum rules. 

Proponents of the EPFD review sought to kick off a four-year study process so that regulatory changes could be proposed at the next WRC-27 conference.

According to regulatory text up for final approval in the closing stages of WRC-23, due to wrap up Dec. 15, EPFD technical studies should be done and their results reported at WRC-27, but without any regulatory consequences.

“It’s a hard-fought compromise which neither side is claiming as a victory,” said Katherine Gizinski, CEO of space consultancy firm River Advisers.

“For NGSOs, deferring regulatory action to WRC-31 at soonest based on the outcome of these technical studies is too long and for [GEO operators] opening the door to potential regulatory action as soon as WRC-31 is too soon.”

John Janka, global chief of government affairs and regulatory officer at Viasat, which had warned EPFD changes would curtail investments and innovation in GEO, said the extra breathing room would help geostationary players protect their networks from interference.

Amazon, which had formed a lobby group with several think tanks to push for EPFD changes, was not immediately available for comment.

Telesat, which operates a GEO constellation but plans to begin launching an NGSO network called Lightspeed in 2026, said the compromise would be a positive for the operator.

Elisabeth Neasmith, Telesat’s senior director for regulatory issues, said it “allows the technical studies that would have been necessary anyway” for a proposal to make EPFD changes on a global basis.

“Regulatory action could still be proposed for a subsequent WRC if the studies show this would make sense,” she added.

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...