Boeing is allowed to bring an Internet access network of 147 satellites into orbit. The US regulator FCC issued a corresponding approval on Wednesday. Boeing had been trying to do this since March 1, 2017. A countdown begins with the approval: Boeing must have half of its satellites up and running in six years at the latest, and all 147 in nine years.
The company is planning a two-part network: 132 satellites are to orbit the earth at an altitude of 1,056 kilometers, another 15 in orbits between 27,355 and 44,221 kilometers. The geostationary orbit also lies in the latter area. The devices will communicate with the ground station as well as with each other by radio.
In this area, Boeing did not get everything it applied for: The company wanted to be allowed to broadcast in both the V-band and the Ka-band. The license is now only valid for certain parts of the V-band. Some of the frequency rights requested by Boeing do not correspond to the global frequency usage plan of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is why the FCC has refused the corresponding license.
Orbits and Customers
At 1,056 kilometers, the planned orbits of the 132 satellites are significantly higher than those of the already active competitor Starlink (SpaceX, around 550 kilometers). This should mean longer signal runtimes for Boeing users. However, competitor OneWeb orbits its satellites a little further away (around 1,200 kilometers). While Starlink does not have any geostationary satellites, there are OneWeb customers who supplement its network with their own geostationary satellites, for example for indirect satellite internet for the indigenous people of Alaska.
Boeing’s targeted customer segment is likely to differ more clearly: While Starlink sells directly to consumers and OneWeb is aimed at wholesalers, Boeing has good relationships with the military, secret services, other government institutions and aircraft fleet operators.