Insights Ofcom consults on new space spectrum strategy

Ofcom says that supporting the growing use of cutting-edge satellite technology to offer innovative services for people and businesses is at the heart of its new proposed space spectrum strategy.

Ofcom explains that the space sector is expanding rapidly, with the number of space launches increasing by almost 60% between 2017 and 2021. Companies such as OneWeb and SpaceX are deploying large numbers of new satellites, known as non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite systems. Meanwhile, universities and start-ups are using smaller satellites to test and trial a range of new projects.

Ofcom’s proposed space spectrum strategy sets out the regulator’s priorities for how it will help the sector deliver more services in the coming years, while making sure it uses spectrum efficiently.

Supporting the growth of satellite broadband

Thousands of NGSO satellites orbit the Earth constantly, tracked by satellite dishes as they move across the sky, to provide broadband to homes and businesses in remote locations. These innovative news services need radio spectrum to work. Ofcom’s job is to make sure this spectrum is used efficiently and manage risks of interference between different spectrum users. The new space spectrum strategy sets out where Ofcom thinks it can make the biggest difference over the next two to four years, building on the licensing changes it introduced last year. This includes considering options for future access to UK spectrum that could boost the capacity of satellite services, such as additional access to the 14.25 – 14.50 GHz band, as well as pursuing improvements to international NGSO rules.

Protecting vital Earth observation services

Ofcom explains that earth observation satellites are playing an increasingly important role in collecting data on climate change. For example, they use radio waves to monitor changes in the natural world, such as the changing thickness of ice in polar regions. These systems also help other industries, such as agriculture, the emergency services and weather forecasting. Part of Ofcom’s job is to help ensure Earth observation systems are protected from interference from other spectrum users.

Safe access to space

The rapidly rising numbers of space objects and proposals for mega-constellations has led to concerns across the space community about the potential for space debris. Ofcom’s role is to make sure there is appropriate spectrum available for systems that support the safe use of space, such as radar systems that track the many objects in space.

The consultation closes on 24 May 2022 and Ofcom aims to publish its final strategy later in 2022. To access Ofcom’s proposals and for information on how to respond to the consultation, click here.