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FCC approves satellite radio repeaters

The FCC on Monday gave XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio temporary permission to build repeaters across the country to back up their satellite radio system.

XM also rescheduled its Dallas and San Diego launch date to Sept. 25, after last week's tragedy delayed its plan to launch Sept. 12. "We are grateful that the FCC has moved so expeditiously in the face of the tragic events that have obviously affected all aspects of government," said XM President Hugh Panero.

NAB and wireless phone companies have protested the satellite radio companies' requests to build repeater networks. NAB fears satellite radio will enter the local radio business without permission, while wireless phone companies worry that their repeaters will interfere with wireless newtorks. The FCC on Monday said it sees XM and Sirius' requests as reasonable.

"It would be unfair to penalize XM [and Sirius] for complying with our required milestone schedule on the one hand but on the other hand force it seriously delay initiation of service because there are no final repeater rules," the commission wrote. "Although XM [and Sirius] has met its interim milestones and is not facing an immediate deadline, it has expended significant time and money to pursue the license."

In response to broadcasters' complaints, however, the commission restricted use of the repeaters to "the simultaneous retransmission of programming, in its entirety." The commission also agrees with the wireless phone companies that receivers broadcasting at power higher than 2 kilowatts may cause interference with wireless phone services. The commission said it would address this problem more fully in final rules, but in the meantime, required XM and Sirius not to operate any repeaters that are known to cause interference until the companies can solve the problem.

The commission still must write permanent rules to guide the deployment of satellite radio companies' repeater networks. NAB was not available for comment by press time Monday night. - Paige Albiniak