Critique of the International/National Spectrum Management Process for Non-Geostationary-Satellite Orbit Broadband Networks
43 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018 Last revised: 31 Mar 2019
Date Written: March 16, 2018
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted OneWeb permission to use certain portions in Ku-/Ka- spectrum bands on new non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) technology to offer Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) broadband services in the United States. Before the grant was awarded, twelve other applicants applied to the FCC hoping to deploy NGSO-like networks in the same spectrum bands to offer the same services. Such a surge in the number of applications - what has been called a “gold rush” mentality - to gain access to Ku-/Ka-band frequencies raised questions to the spectrum management process used to allocate and assign these frequencies: whether the national and international regulations applied to FSS-NGSO provide sufficient incentives for license holders to be selected based upon their placing the highest value on the spectrum, or whether there may be sufficient market failures justifying the use of a non-market-based spectrum management approach to accessing these resources? This paper seeks answers to these questions by providing a critique of the FSS-NGSO spectrum allocation and assignment processes consistent with modern spectrum management best practices; it uses OneWeb as a case study.
A techno-economic framework to conduct a qualitative analysis of the applicable FCC and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) spectrum management regulations was developed to answer these research questions. The three key analytical factors to this framework are: (1) the extent of the spectrum use flexibility offered to the FSS-NGSO players, (2) the quality of the spectrum property rights offered to the FSS-NGSO users, and (3) the potential transaction costs associated with the oversight from the ITU, FCC, and other international regulatory authorities. The results of using these factors to evaluate the FSS-NGSO processes show that FSS-NGSO players have limited ability to move Ku-/Ka-band spectrum resources to higher-valued uses if needed. Such limitation results from inflexible, uncertain, hard to achieve, and lengthy national and international spectrum regulations. Moreover, the regulatory processes do not incentivize the most efficient use of spectrum resources, nor establish sufficient property rights that provide stability and reduce risk to investment.
Keywords: Spectrum Management, Spectrum Property Rights, Satellite Broadband, Anticommons, Mega LEO-Constellations, Transaction Cost, Spectrum Coordinations
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