Boeing wins FCC approval for satellite internet

This long exposure image shows a trail of a group of Starlink satellites from SpaceX that passed over Uruguay on February 7, 2021.

This long exposure image shows a trail of a group of Starlink satellites from SpaceX that passed over Uruguay on February 7, 2021.
Photo: Mariana Suarez / AFP (Getty Images)

SpaceX’s Starlink will eventually have more competition in satellite broadband – and rural Americans will have more providers to choose from. The FCC on Wednesday gave Boeing the green light to launch its own satellites, which SpaceX complained would interfere with its network.

Boeing can now start with the approval expanding its satellite infrastructure, starting with 147 satellites. Boeing deploys 132 low-earth satellites in orbit at an altitude of 1,056 kilometers. The other 15 will be non-geostationary, meaning they follow the Earth’s rotation. Those kinds of satellites orbit at a much higher altitude – between 27,355 and 44,221 kilometers, according to the FCC Declaration.

Boeing will offer broadband to the US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as it builds out its network, and then plans to expand its satellite Internet service worldwide. The company has six years to launch half of its satellite constellation and nine years to build out the rest of the network. Boeing had requested an exemption to extend the extension to 12 years, but the commission denied it.

Boeing has a bit of an advantage over SpaceX’s Starlink network, at least in terms of faster data transfer rates. Boeing’s 147 satellites can broadcast in the V-band, a high-frequency wireless spectrum. Starlink uses Ka and Ku bands, which commercial airlines use for in-flight Internet access.

SpaceX filed a petition with the FCC about a year after Boeing initially submitted its design application in 2017. It claimed that Boeing’s implementation plan would interfere with its satellites and that it would displace low Earth orbit. But the FCC denied SpaceX’s claims.

However, SpaceX still has plenty of reasons to brag. It has about 1.730 low-flying satellites in orbit that currently have more than 90,000 users out Starlink satellite internet maintenance, with average speed tests rank it as fast as broadband. Starlink and Boeing also have other competitors, including Amazon, which will launch late two satellites 2022 as part of its Kuiper satellite broadband effort project. The FCC approved Amazon’s satellites last year.

The tech giants are also competing against existing satellite internet providers such as HughesNet, Viasat and OneWeb. Hopefully this translates into more viable satellite broadband and narrows the digital divide in America. More competition can only be good for consumers.


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