FCC- Expanding Access to In-Flight Broadband and Encouraging Innovation

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on May 9, 2013

“By this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice), the Commission proposes to further increase the availability of broadband services onboard airplanes by establishing an air-ground mobile broadband service by which passengers aboard civil and government aircraft can connect to a full range of communications services while flying over the contiguous United States. Consumers increasingly demand ubiquitous broadband connectivity, even on airplanes. Demand continues to rise, with predictions that the number of aircraft offering broadband service will rise from approximately 3000 in 2012 to 15,000 by 2021.2 Establishment of air-ground mobile broadband service could help satisfy this demand. This air-ground mobile broadband service would operate in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band, on a secondary, non-interference basis with Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) Earth-to-space communications. The key to such band sharing is spatial diversity, with FSS earth station antennas oriented to the south and above the horizon, air-ground mobile broadband base stations oriented to the north, and air-ground mobile broadband aircraft stations oriented below the horizon. Air-ground mobile broadband would be required
to protect primary FSS in the band from harmful interference, and would be required to accommodate other Federal and non-Federal users in the band. We ground our proposals in this proceeding in part on the service proposed by Qualcomm, Inc. (Qualcomm) in a Petition for Rulemaking filed on July 7, 2011.3 We believe our proposal would significantly increase the amount of spectrum available for the provision of wireless broadband to airborne aircraft, helping to meet rising demand for such services.

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