FCC OKs OneWeb Satellite Broadband Service

The FCC has unanimously approved global satellite-delivered broadband service OneWeb's request to deliver its service in the U.S. market, but with some conditions and caveats.

Agency chair Ajit Pai had proposed granting the permission.

The FCC said OneWeb's petition prompted another potential satellite web service to also ask for access.

The declaratory ruling grants access by 720 satellites to a low-earth orbit satellite system that can reach everywhere in the country. That grant includes access to bands used by other networks.

The grant is conditioned on the outcome of a pending proceeding updating rules for fixed satellite systems, which will establish the final sharing criteria, and another pending item on spectrum sharing.

OneWeb board members include Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Qualcomm executive chair Paul Jacobs. Investors include Qualcomm, Virgin and Hughes.

Commissioner Michael O'Rielly called the OneWeb plan ambitious, with some questions remaining about the scope of issues like in-line interference and orbital debris. He said he generally agreed with the item, but had concerns about those issues.

He called this a first step and said that the wireless and satellite industries are on a collision course.

Pai said the item was an effort to harness high-speed access for everyone via the non-geostationary plan that could reach the hardest-to-reach areas.

He said the FCC's International Bureau is reviewing those additional asks for spectrum for other satellite broadband efforts and hoped to be able to approve more low-earth geostationary broadband services.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.