The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a new regulatory framework designed to encourage innovative partnerships between satellite operators and wireless companies.
In a statement last week, the FCC noted it's aiming to leverage the growth in space-based services to connect smartphone users in remote, unserved, and underserved areas.
The framework has been proposed by the regulator, as the FCC aims to establish a more transparent process to support supplemental coverage from space.
Talk around satellite-to-smartphone connectivity has taken off massively in the last year, with companies such as SpaceX, Lynk, and AST SpaceMobile prominent in this space.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking's suggested framework plans to see satellite operators collaborating with terrestrial service providers while being able to obtain FCC authorization to operate space stations on certain currently licensed, flexible-use spectrums allocated to terrestrial services.
According to the FCC, it's also looking to add a mobile-satellite service allocation on some terrestrial flexible-use bands.
"The FCC proposes allowing authorized non-geostationary orbit satellite operators to apply to access terrestrial spectrum if certain prerequisites are met, including a lease from the terrestrial licensee within a specified geographic area. A satellite operator could then serve a wireless provider’s customers should they need connectivity in remote areas, for example in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, Lake Michigan, the 100-Mile Wilderness, or the Uinta Mountains," said the FCC in its statement.
Satellite to smartphone connectivity is expected to be crucial for emergency response systems, with the FCC noting that it is seeking input from the emergency services on how its new framework can best support these services.
Apple tapped into emergency SOS services last year when it announced its iPhone 14, with the company working with Globalstar to provide satellite connectivity through emergency SOS via satellite.
Prior to this move by Apple, T-Mobile linked up with Elon Musk's SpaceX to provide mobile signal connectivity from space, promising speeds of 2-4Mbps through Starlink satellites and eliminating dead zones, using T-Mobile's mid-band spectrum.
Meanwhile, a number of telcos have recently penned satellite connectivity agreements with satellite operators including Vodafone, Globe, Zain, and TIM Brazil.