Insights Ofcom publishes new licensing proposals to support satellite broadband sector


Ofcom has published proposals to change the way it licenses certain satellite systems.

Ofcom explains that a number of new satellite broadband networks are currently being developed, which use Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (NGSO) systems to connect people to the internet, particularly those in hard-to-reach areas.

NGSO systems are more sophisticated than earlier satellite broadband networks. Rather than ground equipment pointing at a single satellite to connect people, NGSO networks can involve thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth which satellite dishes need to track as they move across the sky.

While this can potentially bring faster speeds to customers, Ofcom says, it can be more complex for different NGSO satellite operators to agree how to operate their networks without them interfering with each other. To help support competition in this market and protect the quality of the service customers receive, Ofcom is proposing changes to the licensing process for NGSO systems. This includes new checks on potential interference between networks, and publishing licence applications it receives so that other interested parties have an opportunity to raise any interference or competition concerns. The changes would also require different networks to co-operate with each other on technical matters to avoid risk of disruption to their services, under the conditions of their licence.

Ofcom says that it recognises the importance of these new services to the wider space sector and will be publishing its Space Sector Spectrum Strategy in the autumn. This will not affect these NGSO licensing proposals.

Ofcom welcomes responses to its NGSO licensing proposals by 20 September 2021. To access the proposals, click here.