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Satellite constellation
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

The Boeing Co. is laying out plans to put more than 1,000 satellites into low Earth orbit to provide broadband internet service – and it wants to make sure the Federal Communications Commission preserves the spectrum they’d use.

Boeing thus joins a debate that involves other would-be satellite constellation operators, including OneWeb and SpaceX, as well as the telecom ventures that are planning for 5G broadband mobile services. Like OneWeb and SpaceX, Boeing envisions using a satellite constellation to provide wide-ranging access to the internet and other high-speed data services.

“Next-generation broadband satellite systems can bridge the broadband gap because they are able to deliver advanced communications service to all users at the same cost regardless of location,” Boeing said this week in a filing with the FCC.

Boeing says the system it’s planning would use a range of the radio spectrum known as the V-band, plus another range called the C-band. The V-band is also being eyed by would-be 5G providers, but Boeing argues that the two types of services can co-exist.

Boeing’s FCC application is the focus of a report published today by Space News. Law360 traced earlier discussions between Boeing and regulators.

Space News reported that Boeing would start out with a 1,396-satellite constellation, placed into 745-mile (1,200-kilometer) orbits. Another 1,560 satellites would be added to the constellation when the business plan justifies expansion. The size of the satellites was not disclosed.

OneWeb plans to put hundreds of satellites in similar orbits, but would use a different part of the spectrum known as the Ku-band. That band is also the subject of debate. Current Ku-band users are concerned about the potential for interference, while potential 5G providers have expressed interest in taking over that part of the spectrum.

In an earlier filing with the FCC, SpaceX said it aiso is planning to use Ku-band spectrum for its own satellite-based network. SpaceX’s Seattle engineering office is playing a key role in the development of that network.

SpaceX acknowledged to the FCC that its plans for a global satellite network were little-known, but said that was because the details were “highly proprietary.” Boeing said much the same thing in a statement issued in response to today’s report in Space News.

“For proprietary reasons, Boeing will refrain for now from providing additional details beyond what is contained in the license application,” the company said.

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