Boeing Office Building

The non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite broadband provider market, a market already viewed by some as being too crowded, is poised to gain another entrant. The FCC has approved an application from The Boeing Company for a license to construct, deploy and operate an NGSO constellation.

Boeing plans to provide broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users in the U.S. and globally, according to a filing that the company made with the FCC.

In an order adopted this week, the FCC granted Boeing the authority to provide fixed satellite service in parts of the V-band and to operate inter-satellite links in the 65-71 GHz portion of the V-band. According to a 2017 filing made by Boeing with the FCC, the company has proposed to operate 132 low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites and 15 highly inclined NGSO satellites at a higher altitude.

The filing calls for the 147 satellites to offer high-speed broadband service globally. Initial plans call for serving the U.S., including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

NGSO satellites are designed to provide high-speed broadband with considerably lower latency in comparison with traditional geostationary satellites.

NGSO Competition

The news about the Boeing NGSO approval came just days after Amazon announced plans to launch two LEO satellites that are expected to eventually be part of a constellation of more than 3,000 such satellites. Amazon, which calls its LEO initiative “Project Kuiper,” also said it had filed an application with the FCC for an experimental license to operate a ground station and four customer terminals in Texas to test its technology.

Amazon already has reached a deal with Verizon to use Project Kuiper to provide backhaul connectivity for the Verizon 5G network in rural areas and, eventually, to support fixed broadband service in those areas.

Meanwhile, SpaceX already has deployed some satellites in support of a planned LEO constellation that is expected to include 4,440 satellites just to cover the U.S. The company also tentatively won $885 million in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas, although funding has not yet been released to the company.

Other companies that have begun to deploy LEO satellites or plan to do so include OneWeb, Telesat and others.

A forecast from ABI Research calls for LEO satellite broadband providers to have 5.2 million users and $4.1 billion revenues in 2026. But whether the market will be big enough to support all the market entrants remains to be seen.

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