Satnews Daily
November 18th, 2011

Global VSAT Forum Manages Spectrum...Very Carefully

[SatNews] Looking ahead to ensure that customers will have unlimited access to Ka-band... that takes planning...

The international satellite industry has launched a global campaign to assure that communications customers will continue to have unfettered access to “Ka-band” spectrum for delivery of state-of-the-art consumer, government and enterprise solutions. The centerpiece of the campaign, which is being led by the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), is the “White Paper for National Regulators on Satellite Services in the Ka band,” which was recently established and is now being introduced to governments throughout the world.

GVF’s Regulatory Working Group (RWG) finalized the White Paper in preparation for the International Telecommunication Union’s 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference, where the world’s governments will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to consider how best to allocate and manage spectrum in all three of the ITU’s Regions.  The White Paper represents a carefully developed consensus of the global industry for satellite-based communications services.

“Increasing pressure is being applied to scarce satellite spectrum resources,” said Matthew Botwin, Chairman of the GVF RWG. “In response to this trend, the satellite industry has recently begun rolling out high-powered, low-cost services in the Ka-band frequency range. It is important that this spectrum be managed effectively by national administrations to ensure that satellite communications users have access to cost-effective Internet, voice, data and video solutions.”

The frequency involved — referred to as the Ka band[1] — is used by an increasing number of satellite operators throughout the world to support many telecommunications applications, including Internet — which is a necessity for rural areas that otherwise would not have access.  The frequency band is also used for Fixed and Mobile Satellite Services in maritime, vehicular and aeronautical platforms, media services, and numerous other uses which require broadband coverage over large geographic areas.

Traditional C- and Ku-band geostationary satellites with broad beams used for consumer broadband provide approximately 1 Gbps of throughput. Thanks to frequency re-use made possible by multi-spot beams in the Ka band, this throughput can be increased 50 to 100 fold.  Hence these Ka-band geo-stationary satellites are referred to as high-throughput satellites (“HTS”).  The massive increase in throughput allows these geostationary satellite operators to offer satellite capacity in support of direct end user terminals and backhaul applications at considerably lower prices. In addition, innovative approaches using non-geostationary satellites to provide certain types of Ka band services, e.g. Internet backhaul, have also now evolved and will become operational shortly.

“Protection and management of Ka-band satellite spectrum is critical,” said David Hartshorn, GVF’s Secretary General. “The international industry is to be commended for having reached consensus on this White Paper, and the GVF RWG is committed to working collaboratively with national administrations as they evaluate successful regulatory and spectrum-management practices during the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference next year.”

The GVF RWG White Paper includes practical information for national administrations on the following measures:
  • Blanket licensing, which is designed to reduce administrative burdens and licensing costs
  • “Light touch” fees that enable national administrations to cover administrative costs while minimizing financial burdens on industry and the user community
  • Transparency in satellite regulation and spectrum management
  • “Open Skies” and strategic liberalization policies that provide for access to competitively provided satellite bandwidth and value-added services
The GVF RWG has begun to provide the White Paper to national administrations, inter-governmental groups, the ITU, and private-sector partners. Parties interested in obtaining a copy of the White Paper are welcome to contact Matthew Botwin:  

[1] Ka band refers in general to frequencies in 17-22 GHz downlink and 24-31 GHz uplink.