By J.G. Harrington and Henry Wendel
The Federal Communications Commission has adopted new rules to expand the use of spectrum in the 17 gigahertz band to transmit data to Earth. This decision allows the spectrum, which previously had been reserved for feeder links and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service, to be used by any geostationary satellite operators providing fixed-satellite service. It also is noteworthy because the FCC rejected requests to set this spectrum aside for terrestrial wireless use and instead affirmed that it should be used for satellite services.
Historically, 17 GHz spectrum has been used for feeder links, which send signals from the Earth to satellites, but the FCC made the band available to DBS operators for space-to-Earth transmissions in2007. This decision makes the spectrum from 17.3 to 17.7 GHz and 17.7 to 17.8 GHz available to other satellite service operators using geostationary satellites to reach fixed customer locations. The new rules also authorize blanket licensing of earth stations in the 17 GHz frequencies, including earth stations used in moving vehicles. The FCC expects that the new spectrum will be used to support broadband operations – and that satellite operators will take advantage of spot beam technology to reuse the spectrum efficiently across the US.