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Satellite arrangement
A SpaceX satellite coverage scheme described in a patent application envisions two sets of satellites orbiting in different inclinations at different altitudes. (PatentYogi via YouTube)

SpaceX’s plan to provide global broadband internet access using thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit has come under fire from competitors, including Boeing and OneWeb, according to Space Intel Report.

The argument is playing out in a series of filings with the Federal Communications Commission, focusing on SpaceX’s request for a temporary waiver from the FCC’s time limits for putting the satellite system into full operation.

The FCC would typically require the system to provide full coverage of U.S. territory within six years of a license being issued, but SpaceX says that’s not enough time to deploy the full 4,425-satellite constellation.

Instead, the company proposes launching the first 1,600 satellites in six years, which would leave the northernmost part of Alaska without coverage when the deadline hits. Full U.S. coverage would be provided after the six-year deadline, SpaceX says.

In their own filings, competitors including OneWeb, SES/O3b and Intelsat are urging the FCC not to waive the six-year requirement, Space Intel Report said.

The competitors are also calling for further study to make sure SpaceX’s satellites won’t interfere with their own. If multiple satellite constellations are deployed in low Earth orbit, that has the potential of creating a data traffic jam for satellites orbiting at altitudes as high as 22,000 miles.

Last month, the FCC granted OneWeb regulatory approval to operate in the United States – and said that 11 other applicants were planning low-Earth-orbit constellations to provide broadband internet service. In addition to SpaceX, SES/O3b and Intelsat, the applicants are said to include Boeing, ViaSat, Telesat, Audacy, Karousel LLC, Space Norway, Theia Holdings and LeoSat.

OneWeb still faces regulatory hurdles, but it has already begun building satellites in partnership with Airbus Defense and Space.

Both SpaceX and OneWeb have said they intend to start getting their satellites launched within the next year or so, with the first phase of operations due to begin in 2019.

SpaceX’s satellite research and development effort is headquartered in Redmond, Wash., and the company is expanding its footprint there to accommodate the expected ramp-up of operations.

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