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FCC Adopts New Satellite-to-Cell Regulatory Framework

By Rachel Jewett | March 14, 2024

      Satellite-to-cell graphic. Photo illustration: Via Satellite

      The FCC adopted a new regulatory framework on Thursday to allow satellite operators to use mobile spectrum to provide satellite-t0-cell coverage The FCC said this is the world’s first regulatory framework for “supplemental coverage from space.” All five FCC commissioners approved the framework in the March 14 meeting.  

      The FCC said this type of service can be life-saving in remote locations, providing connectivity outside the reach of cellular networks. It allows a spectrum use framework so wireless companies can expand coverage to their subscribers through a collaboration with satellite operators via lease agreement or arrangement. 

      Satellite-to-cell is a rapidly evolving market in the satellite and wireless industries, as telcos and device and chip manufacturers like T-Mobile, Apple, and AT&T strike deals with satellite operators to provide satellite-to-cell service. The FCC first introduced this issue a year ago.

      The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) applauded the FCC for taking action. 

      “SIA commends the FCC for continuing to recognize the growing importance of satellites and the increasingly vital role the commercial space industry is playing in today’s world,” said Tom Stroup, president of the Satellite Industry Association. “As an increasing number of companies evaluate, develop and launch satellite direct to device services, SIA commends the FCC for addressing the need for the creation of a regulatory framework for supplemental coverage – one that will help facilitate the integration of satellite and terrestrial networks while helping maintain America’s space leadership.”  

      Lynk Global, a satellite company that offers satellite-to-cell service, also applauded the move. CEO Charles Miller said the company “believes sat2phone technology has the potential to help pull the next billion people out of poverty by extending affordable access to mobile connectivity around the globe.”