FCC Approves SpaceX’s E-Band Spectrum Use for Next-Gen Starlink Satellites

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Written By Viktor

Product manager by day, Starlink enthusiast by night.

In a landmark decision, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially greenlit SpaceX’s proposal to utilize the E-band spectrum for its forthcoming second-generation Starlink satellites.

This approval marks a significant enhancement to the satellite internet service’s data capacity, promising to revolutionize global internet accessibility.

SpaceX plans to leverage the “E-band” spectrum — which encompasses frequencies in the 71.0-76.0 GHz (space-to-Earth) and 81.0-86.0 GHz (Earth-to-space) ranges — to significantly bolster communications between its Starlink satellites and the company’s ground stations on Earth.

The approval by the FCC is only applicable to its Gen2 satellites, which were first cleared for deployment by the regulator back in December 2022.

This move is expected to quadruple the data throughput per satellite compared to the current generation, offering faster and more reliable internet connections worldwide.

The decision arrives after the FCC’s comprehensive review of SpaceX’s proposal, alongside public comments and technical assessments.

By granting access to these higher frequency bands, the FCC aims to support SpaceX in meeting the escalating demand for high-speed, low-latency internet, especially in underserved and remote areas across the globe.

SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink network is designed to support up to 32 satellites communicating simultaneously with a single ground station, potentially allowing for 64 co-frequency beams to be transmitted to the same location at any given time.

This technical capability is crucial for managing the increased data volume that the E-band spectrum usage will facilitate.

However, the FCC’s approval comes with stringent conditions. SpaceX is required to carefully coordinate its use of the E-band spectrum to prevent interference with other satellite operators who may also seek to utilize these frequencies.

The FCC emphasized the importance of ensuring that all services can coexist without disruption. Moreover, it also urged SpaceX to continue working with the scientific community to mitigate any issues astronomers may face.

The E-band spectrum will primarily be used for backhaul communications between the orbiting Starlink satellites and SpaceX’s “gateway” ground stations, which link the satellites to the terrestrial internet infrastructure.

SpaceX teased the Gen2’s E-band backhaul capability and the resulting increase in capacity all the way back in February 2023 (see tweet above).

By leveraging the E-band for backhaul links, SpaceX can effectively multiply the overall throughput of the Starlink system, making it possible to serve a greater number of users simultaneously while maintaining high service quality.

Prior to receiving full approval, SpaceX was granted temporary authority to test the E-band spectrum capabilities.

The successful completion of these tests, which reported no interference issues with other spectrum users, played a significant role in the FCC’s decision to grant full operational clearance.

The FCC’s authorization of SpaceX to use the E-band spectrum for its second-generation Starlink satellites represents a major step forward in the company’s mission to deliver superior satellite internet service.

By harnessing the power of the E-band, SpaceX is set to further solidify its position as a leader in the satellite internet industry and making strides toward universal internet coverage – and ultimately colonizing Mars.

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