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Satellite, Avionics Cos. Pitch FCC on High-Flying Video Streaming

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The FCC is being asked to adjust its rules so airline passengers can, among other things, more easily stream and download in-flight video, but traditional DBS video user AT&T is pushing back.

In-flight Wi-Fi company Viasat is asking the FCC to allow "earth stations in motion" (ESIMs) to operate in the 17.3-17.8 portion of the spectrum band in the same way the FCC is proposing to allow fixed receive stations.

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That request came in comments on the FCC's November Notice of Proposed Rulemaking allowing the use of that segment of the band for geostationary orbit (GSO) fixed satellite services (FSS) downlinks from space to earth on a co-primary basis with other users.

In the case of ESIMs, it would be from space to planes, which are considered earth stations in motion though untethered to the earth.

Viasat is all for the change for stationary earth stations, but said assuring the most productive use of the band would include permitting ESIMS to operate in the same way, which it said they could without interfering with other operations.

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It pointed out in comments on the FCC's NPRM that it uses aeronautical FSS applications of ESIMs to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity on planes to support video streaming and downloaded video, which it said is currently the highest demanded consumer application of the technology.

It said that demand will only grow as more planes provide "gate-to-gate" connectivity. It adds that it is working on providing similar services to other mobile downlinks like emergency vehicles, cars, trains and ships.

"The 17.3-17.8 GHz band segment would provide the additional spectrum that is critical to allow ESIMs to effectively satisfy the growing demand for such services," it said.

The FCC has tentatively concluded that FSS receive stations should not pose and interference threat, and Viasat said that conclusion should not turn on whether the receiving station is stationary or on the move. "In short, there is simply no basis for excluding ESIMs from the band segment," it told the FCC.

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.