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Regulatory Roundup: Decisions Affecting The Worldwide Satellite Industry

By | September 20, 2004

      Editor’s Note: This week we are introducing the following value-added feature to assist you in tracking regulatory developments.

      Who’s Doing What? What To Expect Near-Term What It All Means
      XM Satellite Radio [XMSR], (, 1500 Eckingon Place, NE, Washington, DC 20002 XM is expanding its number of terrestrial repeaters to improve the quality of its service in urban areas where obstacles exist that impair reception for subscribers of the company’s nationwide satellite radio service. Key Contact: Chance Patterson, vice president/ corporate affairs, 202/380-4318 Sirius Satellite Radio [SIRI], (, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 Sirius gained regulatory approval to change the technical parameters of 16 terrestrial repeaters it uses. Key Contact: Jim Collins, vice president/ corporate communications 212/901-6422 In a decision adopted and released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Sept. 15, XM gained special temporary authority (STA) to overcome the effects of satellite signal blockage. The FCC indicated in its order that it still is working to resolve complex technical issues that are delaying the final rules to authorize satellite radio repeaters. The FCC’s order said it would be unfair to penalize XM for complying with the commission’s milestone schedule and then to expect the company to “seriously delay” initiation of services because no final terrestrial repeater rules are available. Because XM did not propose operating its terrestrial repeaters at power levels higher than 10 kilowatt (kW) equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP), any risk of interference is limited. Sirius also gained a STA to overcome the effects of satellite signal blockage. The low power that would be used by Sirius as well as XM gained the FCC’s confidence in granting the STA because the risk of interference to users in the adjacent spectrum would be limited. XM, the largest satellite radio service in the United States, sought and received a STA from the FCC to operate Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service terrestrial repeaters in the satellite radio frequencies between 2320 MHz and 2345 MHz. XM needed the STA to operate 49 terrestrial repeaters in addition to those the company already uses under previous approval from the FCC. The commission found that the public interest supported the granting of the STA due to in part to the many benefits satellite radio provides. The request was opposed by the WCS Coalition, which represents the interests of licensees in the Wireless Communications Services that operate in frequency bands adjacent to those used by XM and its New York City-based rival Sirius Satellite Radio [SIRI]. Negotiations are ongoing between the satellite radio providers and the WCS Coalition about technical rules that should govern the operation of satellite radio terrestrial repeaters to reduce or eliminate potential interference. However, the FCC cautioned that its order is “not indicative” of its deliberations in its ongoing rulemaking, and that XM and Sirius would need to operate their terrestrial repeaters under last week’s order at their own risk until the final rules are issued. With Sirius, the reasons for seeking the STA are a little bit different. It is operating a higher-priced premium service that charges $12.95 a month compared with $9.99 a month for XM, and the STA is important to maintain seamless reception for the company’s subscribers.
      Mobile Satellite Ventures, (, 10802 Parkridge Boulevard, Reston, VA 20191 The company’s petition was granted for reconsideration of an earlier FCC decision to seek to add 50 megahertz of spectrum to its pending application for a next-generation mobile satellite services (MSS) system. MSV now must submit additional information in support of its amendment. Key Contact: Lon Levine, vice president 877/678-2920 MSV won a reprieve from the FCC’s International Bureau with an order adopted and released Sept. 15 that both supercedes an April 23 “dismissal letter” from the commission and clarifies the information that the company must submit by Sept. 28. If that information is provided in time, MSV’s Feb. 9 amendment will be placed on public notice. As part of the same order, a petition for reconsideration by EchoStar Communications [DISH] was denied. EchoStar’s Feb. 9 spectrum use applications was followed by MSV’s filing of an amendment to its request to add 50 megahertz of spectrum in each direction for fixed satellite services (FSS) feeder links. Those links would operate at 10.70 GHz-10.75 GHz and at 13.15 GHz-13.20 GHz allocated to FSS. In its amendment, MSV is requesting a total of 500 megahertz of spectrum in each transmission direction for feeder links. The FCC dismissed MSV’s February 2004 amendment because it lacked an interference analysis required by the commission’s rules. The commission requires that an interference analysis demonstrate that a proposed FSS operating in geostationary orbit and providing FSS service, such as the feeder link portion of MSV’s system, would be compatible with the FCC’s two-degree in-orbit spacing policy. A Dec. 13, 2003, public notice by the FCC gave notice that failure of an applicant to submit a spacing analysis would render the application incomplete. Without such an analysis, the MSV application was judged incomplete and rejected by the FCC. MSV successfully argued that it did not submit the analysis because it did not believe the requirement pertained to MSS applicants. MSV can continue to pursue FCC approval to obtain the 50 megahertz in additional spectrum that it seeks for its proposed next-generation MSS. The company wants authority to launch and operate a replacement satellite that would operate in the L-band at 101 degrees W. The FSS spectrum MSV seeks to use previously was the object of EchoStar’s desire when it filed for FCC approval to construct, launch and operate a satellite at 101 degrees W. EchoStar failed to win FCC support.
      Sources: FCC, Satellite News
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