On April 17, 2018 the Federal Communications Commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) that seeks to streamline and otherwise tailor the agency’s current one-size-fits-all satellite regulations for small satellite systems (commonly referred to as “smallsats”). The NPRM sets forth proposals to expedite smallsat approvals and identifies certain frequency bands for potential use by smallsats.

If the proposals in the NPRM are eventually adopted, the FCC envisions that qualifying smallsat systems will be able to save significant time and money. In particular, qualifying smallsat systems would not have to go through the often time-consuming and paperwork-intensive processing rounds normally associated with the licensing or market entry approval of non-geostationary orbit (“NGSO”) satellite systems. Furthermore, qualifying smallsat systems would only have to pay the proposed satellite application fee of $30,000 (as opposed to the $454,705 satellite application fee under the standard Part 25 approval process). Last but not least, qualifying smallsat systems that deploy at least half of their satellites within one year and thirty days of FCC approval would be able to forego filing surety bonds with the Commission. That’s not a small alteration, as these bonds can cost anywhere from one to five million dollars per system.
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Fulfilling a promise made by Chairman Pai in the fall that the Federal Communications Commission would give a close look to opening up licensed operations in the bands above 95 GHz, the FCC announced tentatively on February 1 that it will consider commencing a rulemaking to do just that at its next Open Meeting on February 22.  The Commission released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Draft NPRM”) with the announcement that details how the Commission may go about fostering investment and innovation in the 95-275 GHz range and beyond.  If approved, the so-called Spectrum Horizons NPRM would seek comment on potential rules for fixed point-to-point use of tens of gigahertz of new spectrum, more than 15.2 gigahertz of unlicensed spectrum, and more flexible experimental licenses in the 95-3000 GHz range.
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