FCC agrees on a new framework for satellite coverage for smartphones

The framework will enable satellite access for smartphone users in emergency situations.
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Global connectivity concept with worldwide communication network connection lines around planet Earth viewed from space.
Global connectivity concept with worldwide communication network connection lines around planet Earth viewed from space.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intends to establish a new regulatory framework to enable connections between satellite operators and wireless firms to connect smartphone users in isolated or underserved regions worldwide.

Today's adoption of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking followed a series of presentations and announcements concerning satellite-cellular combinations.

FCC stated in a release that it aims to "create clear and open protocols to facilitate supplemental coverage from space."

“Connecting consumers to essential wireless services where no terrestrial mobile service is available can be life-saving in remote locations and can open up innovative opportunities for consumers and businesses,” the FCC said.

According to the FCC, this framework will standardize the procedure by which satellite operators can collaborate with cellular service providers to gain permission to transmit data from space using presently licensed, flexible-use spectrum assigned to terrestrial services.

Suppose specific requirements are met, such as a lease from the terrestrial licensee within a specific geographic area. In that case, operators of broadband constellations in low to medium Earth orbit may apply to access the terrestrial spectrum, according to the FCC. A satellite operator could assist when a wireless provider's customers require connectivity in remote locations, such as amid the Chihuahuan Desert, Lake Michigan, the 100-Mile Wilderness, or the Uinta Mountains.

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The FCC also intends to solicit feedback on the best ways to support access to emergency response systems like 911 via satellite coverage in space. The FCC stated that the new procedure would also establish a record regarding whether the framework might be applied to other bands, locations, and applications.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel mentioned a recent incident involving a California couple who were located and saved following a highway accident in a remote place using the satellite emergency alert feature on their iPhone.

All approved the notice of proposed rulemaking of the commissioners. They also expressed positive sentiments about it; looks like things are finally moving in the right direction.

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