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Amazon and SpaceX Butt Heads Over Satellite Broadband

C'mon, you guys promised to play nice!

A Starlink satellite dish sitting outside an RV.

Amazon is preparing to launch 3,236 satellites into orbit, kickstarting its Project Kuiper satellite broadband service. But instead of following the path laid by FCC regulations, Amazon is asking to change the rules—it wants to share spectrum with SpaceX’s Starlink. And SpaceX isn’t happy.

According to FCC spectrum-sharing rules implemented in 2022, NGSO FSS systems (non-geostationary-satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems) can only share radio frequencies if they are approved during the same spectrum processing round. In other words, spectrum sharing needs to be hammered out before satellite deployment.

This ensures that existing satellite systems, such as Starlink, will not receive interference from future NGSO FSS deployments (and vice versa). It’s hard to modify an existing NGSO FSS system to accommodate a new system, but it’s relatively easy to figure out these details during an on-the-ground approval process. (For what it’s worth, SpaceX proposed this rule to the FCC.)

But as The Register explains, Amazon is campaigning for the swift adoption of a new NGSO FSS spectrum-sharing policy. It recently sent a letter to the FCC explaining that new NGSO FSS systems should be able to share radio frequencies with existing satellite networks. This would enable a faster deployment for satellite systems like Project Kuiper and allow NGSO FSS operators to quickly expand their satellite constellations in future spectrum processing rounds.

SpaceX responded by sending a letter to the FCC. In it, SpaceX says that Amazon is asking for “special treatment” and claims that looser spectrum allocation rules would encourage the proliferation of “poorly designed and inefficient satellite systems that stifle competition.” (For reference, Amazon and SpaceX had a public catfight in 2021 over a very similar disagreement.)

And SpaceX sees this as an attack on its Starlink system. The company notes that spectrum sharing requires intensive coordination, including the sharing of proprietary knowledge and technology, which Amazon may “abuse.”

Clearly, SpaceX and Amazon want to have a say in how NGSO FSS systems operate. Both companies argue that their rival is “stifling competition,” yet they occupy an emerging market and receive government funding for satellite broadband pursuits. On the bright side, we can confidently say that the satellite broadband market is full of unique and differing opinions.

Source: Amazon, SpaceX via The Register

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »