Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023
SpaceX Faces Hurdles in Launching Starlink Mobile Service

SpaceX plans to launch its Starlink mobile telecommunications service next year, aiming to provide satellite messaging and internet to smartphones. However, the company still needs to convince the FCC that the technology will not interfere with other satellite and terrestrial services.

On Tuesday, the FCC sent a list of additional questions to SpaceX as it reviews whether to approve or reject the company’s application to operate the Starlink mobile telecommunications service on frequencies ranging from 1910 to 1995MHz.

The company initially applied last year to start using thousands of Starlink satellites to transmit radio signals to smartphones on the ground, including those of T-Mobile. Now, the FCC is asking SpaceX to provide an “interference analysis” by November 17.

“This analysis should consider the worst-case scenario of all satellites transmitting simultaneously, including different power levels required for rain attenuation and cloud coverage, as well as clear sky conditions in a specific coverage area,” wrote the FCC.

In addition, the same analysis should examine the “possibility of service loss to other authorized satellite and terrestrial operators in that particular area,” the Commission added.

Another request asks SpaceX to provide a “map of beam coverage” for the US, showing the maximum and typical power levels of the satellite cell-like service. The FCC also wants to know how the company can shut down the Starlink cell-like system in case of interference in specific geographic areas.

“If SpaceX is required to suspend operations due to harmful interference when the satellites serve residential areas that already have complete terrestrial coverage, how will this be achieved with multiple satellites or multiple coverage areas simultaneously?” the FCC asks.

The letter arrives at a time when other companies have expressed concerns to the FCC about the Starlink mobile telecommunications system causing interference. US satellite communications provider Omnispace even told the Commission that interference is inevitable for its S-Band satellites, which operate using the frequency 1980-2010MHz.

“As Omnispace’s satellites are in constant motion, like SpaceX’s satellites, the interference that Omnispace would experience would be continuous and pervasive to any of our satellites operating within 5,400 kilometers of any US ground where SpaceX operates a single satellite in the proposed SCS system,” the company said in August. Omnispace also created a map showing an “exclusion zone” to depict the areas where the alleged interference of Starlink would occur.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, in September, the company told the FCC that Omnispace was making false claims about the Starlink mobile telecommunications service posing interference risks. SpaceX also claimed that Omnispace was focused on serving foreign customers rather than US users.

“SpaceX will not cause harmful interference to Omnispace’s commercial foreign system, and Omnispace’s shape-changing analysis provides no basis for the Commission to delay the deployment of beneficial services to millions of American consumers,” the company said.