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Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Amazon Urges FCC to Deny SpaceX's Plan for Second-Generation Starlink


Amazon is asking the FCC to deny a SpaceX plan to develop a second-generation Starlink network, claiming it breaks the regulator’s rules on satellite deployment.  

Amazon's protest letter comes as the company is developing its own satellite internet system called Project Kuiper, which has yet to take off. 

Starlink, on the other hand, is already serving 100,000 users across the globe through 1,700 satellites in orbit. The network is currently delivering download speeds from 50Mbps to 150Mbps or higher. But to improve coverage and upgrade speeds, SpaceX is seeking FCC clearance to operate a second-generation Starlink network comprising nearly 30,000 satellites. 

Amazon claims the plan is too broad and speculative, and thus breaks the FCC’s rules on applying for satellite deployments. The e-commerce giant notes that SpaceX’s application for the second-generation network seeks permission for not just one, but two configurations to align the 30,000 Starlink satellites.

SpaceX only intends on using one configuration during the actual deployment. The company's FCC application also notes the second proposed configuration is meant to serve as a backup. Nevertheless, Amazon isn't onboard with the justifications.

“SpaceX's novel approach of applying for two mutually exclusive configurations is at odds with both the Commission’s rules and public policy and we urge the Commission to dismiss this amendment,” Amazon says in the letter. “The Commission’s rules require that SpaceX settle the details of its proposed amendment before filing its application—not after.” 

As a result, Amazon is calling on the FCC to dismiss the plan in its current form. According to Amazon, relaxing the rules risks encouraging SpaceX and other companies to seek clearance for “speculative” applications that try to lock in access for various satellite configurations. 

“Other prospective licensees will surely see the benefit in maximizing their optionality by describing multiple configurations in their license applications,” Amazon adds. “The Commission must guard against this outcome by insisting that SpaceX adhere to the well settled framework under Part 25—namely, that licensees submit an application for a single system.” 

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the company provided two configurations because the first one relies on the still under-development Starship craft to deliver the Starlink satellites. The second configuration taps existing Falcon 9 reusable rockets. 

“Under either configuration, the revised Gen2 System will further optimize service to customers and better meet demand for low-latency, high-bandwidth  broadband  services, especially in underserved and unserved areas, all while using slightly fewer satellites,” SpaceX says.

The letter comes shortly after former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos slammed NASA for giving SpaceX a lunar landing contract over his own spaceflight company, Blue Origin.

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