Amazon is one of the many companies interested in deploying low-orbit satellites for the internet, but SpaceX is lobbying the FCC to prevent the internet giant dodging bureaucratic complications.
When launching a constellation of satellites for the delivery of mobile broadband, there are many boxes to tick. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos certainly has the cash, the interest, the ambition and the manpower to make his satellite venture a success, but one thing he doesn’t currently have is the regulatory approval to access spectrum. This is obviously a massive stumbling block.
Over the last few months, Amazon has been submitting various different filings with the ITU and the FCC to overcome the regulatory hurdles, but there is one monstrous complication; the spectrum has already been allocated.
This is where it starts to get very interesting. Amazon is asking for a waiver so it can pursue the delivery of mobile broadband via low-orbit satellite, but its competitors are lobbying against the waiver.
SpaceX has submitted its own opinion to the FCC where it believes the requests should be denied. Nine companies participated in the initial Ka-band licensing round, a very complex bureaucratic procedure to allocate spectrum to the likes of Telesat Canada, Theia Holdings, and Iridium Communications.
Amazon can participate in the secondary round of Ka-band licensing, though it risks being designated as secondary-operator. In this situation, it would have to cease operations should the assets interfere with the operations of one of the previously established operators. This is not a position the ambitious Bezos will want to be in.
The question which remains is whether the FCC will permit Bezos to take the shortcut, muscling in on spectrum licences which were allocated years ago, or will force the firm to take the official route. The likes of SpaceX will certainly want to make life difficult for Amazon, why would it want another competitor in the skies after all.
Should the FCC side with SpaceX’s lobbyists there is a risk Bezos might scale back his investment in the stars. But then again, does the FCC want to sour relationships with everyone else as an alternative?