1. What is an Earth Station License and why is one needed:

    Federal regulations require that a valid authorization be obtained prior to the use and operation of earth station facilities within the United States. An earth station license provided by the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) is required for operators to begin operating their earth stations utilizing spectrum to transmit and/or receive with one or more satellites, or other earth stations via one or more reflecting satellites or other objects in space. 47 CFR §25.102. An earth station license is separate from a space station license and generally, absent specific circumstances, requires the filing of a separate application. 47 CFR §25.124.

  2. How do I apply for an Earth Station License:

    The person or entity that controls the earth station must apply for and hold the earth station license. Although an earth station operator is allowed to offer earth stations as a service, unless the service provider is in control of the earth station, the entity operating the earth station must apply for and hold the license.
    An earth station license is applied for using the FCC Form 312 and Schedule B through the Commission’s ICFS online portal. An applicant must prepare and submit both the FCC Form 312 and the Schedule B in their entirety, and include details in attachments such as technical descriptions, radiation hazard reports, coordination reports, or waiver narratives. An application that is incomplete or contains inconsistencies or contradictions may be found to be defective. 47 CFR §25.112. ICFS is also where an applicant can submit modification applications to modify an existing authorization or submit amendments to a pending application.

Aspects of a license application

The Commission’s rules lay out the specific requirements of all earth station applications. 47 CFR §25.115. Earth station applications are submitted electronically through the ICFS database on the FCC Form 312 and include the Main Form and Schedule B. The applicant must include:

  • A detailed description of the service to be provided;
  • The proposed frequency bands and points of communication;
    • Applicants seeking to operate in frequency bands that are also allocated to terrestrial services must include a frequency coordination analysis. For Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) earth station applicants proposing to communicate in frequency bands that are shared coequally with terrestrial radiocommunications services, the earth station applicant must include a Frequency Coordination and Interference Analysis Report that is not older than 6 months from the date the earth station application is filed.  See 47 CFR §§ 25.115(c)(2)(iii) and 25.203.  Accordingly, prior to filing an application, an FSS earth station applicant should review Sections 25.202(a)(1) and 2.106 (U.S. Table of Allocations) of the Commission’s rules to determine if the frequency bands sought are shared coequally with terrestrial radiocommunication services. Further discussion of coordination requirements can be found in Overview of Service Specific Rules and Coordination Requirements.
    • Applicants must ensure that the requested points of communication are licensed and authorized.
  • Antenna parameters;
  • Radiation Hazard Analysis;
  • Power levels and power density information.
  • Stop buzzer contact, meaning a point of contact in the United States available at all times with authority and ability to cease all emissions at the station.
  • If an applicant requests waiver of any Commission rules or regulations, a narrative attachment providing a justification for the waiver is required. For instance, if an applicant seeks to use frequencies not allocated for satellite communications, then a narrative document that includes a request for waiver of part 2.106 of the Commission’s rules (U.S. Table of Frequency Allocations) would need to be included in the application. The Commission reviews waiver requests on a case-by-case basis and does not regularly grant waiver requests absent unique circumstances and public interest benefits. 47 CFR 1.3.
  • If this is an atypical  operation that does not require a request for waiver, inclusion of a narrative that provides additional detail about the operation that is not already included in the responses to reduce the need for follow up from Commission staff.  
  • Examples of application forms and exhibits can be found here

An application that is defective or does not comply with Commission rules will be dismissed and returned to the applicant with a brief statement identifying the omissions or discrepancies. 47 CFR § 25.112.

Earth Station Licensing:

Earth station applications follow the process outlined below. The review time will vary based on the technical details of the earth station, such as the proposed band(s) for use, number of sites, location of the site(s), and with which satellite(s) the earth station will communicate. Therefore, we recommend submitting application(s) as early as possible to accommodate for variances.1

Earth Station Flow chart

This flow chart shows the process an earth station application goes through from when it is submitted up until it is granted or dismissed or otherwise acted on by the Commission.

Earth Station License Grant:

After an earth station application has been fully reviewed by Commission staff and is found to be favorable for grant, Bureau staff will issue a license grant. Earth Station licenses follow the same format:  First, the license shows relevant identifying information regarding the name of the licensee, call sign of the station, file number associated with the application, the nature of service, and class of station. In addition, the first portion of the license includes the authorization type, grant date of the license, and the expiration date of the license. The second part of the license consists of eight parts: A) Site Location(s); B) Particulars of Operations; C) Frequency Coordination; D) Points of Communications; E) Antenna Facilities; F) Remote Control; G) Antenna Structure marking and lighting requirements; and H) Special and General Provisions. A description of each part is outlined below.
The information found in the license sets the bounds within which a licensee is permitted to operate the specific station. If a licensee wishes to operate under different technical parameters or in a manner that differs from their license, they are required to file for either a Modification of their license or for a Special Temporary Authorization (STA) for immediate or temporary use of the station. The specific rules related to STAs can be found in Overview of Service Specific Rules and Coordination Requirements.

Parts of an Earth Station License:

Depending on the requested frequency(ies), coordination with other FCC Bureaus/Offices and/or U.S agencies may be required. If frequency coordination is required, this section of the license outlines the limits established by the coordination. Limits include: satellite arc, elevation, azimuth, and Max EIRP Density.

  1. Site Location(s): 

    Location(s) of the Earth Station(s) under the authorization is(are) listed in this section. This information includes the address, latitude, longitude, elevation, and site ID for the stations under the authorization. In the case of blanket licenses or ESIMs, a specific location may not be provided. Instead, the license will indicate the area(s) of operation, such as United States, CONUS, individual states (i.e., AK, HI), U.S. Territories, U.S. Territorial Waters, and/or International Waters.

  2. Particulars of Operations: 

    This part outlines the technical aspects of the licensed operations including the authorized frequencies in which the licensee is permitted to operate. Further, this section includes the polarization, emission designation, max EIRP Density and Max EIRP for transmissions, associated antenna information, and services. This information will be provided for each frequency band.

  3. Frequency Coordination: 

    Depending on the requested frequency(ies), coordination with other FCC Bureaus/Offices and/or U.S agencies may be required.
    If frequency coordination is required, this section of the license outlines the limits established by the coordination. Limits include: satellite arc, elevation, azimuth, and Max EIRP Density.

  4. Point of Communications: 

    Approved satellite points of communication with which the earth station is permitted to communicate are listed. An earth station is only permitted to communicate with the points of communication listed in this portion of the license. This section may include specific parameters or limitations for the communication with a specific satellite. For example, if the communication is permitted only for TT&C purposes, that information will oftentimes be noted here.  Should an earth station wish to communicate with additional or different points of communication a license modification application is required.

  5. Antenna Facilities: 

    This section lists the specific approved antennas associated with the earth station authorization. Here it will state the number of antennas, the manufacturer of each antenna, antenna ID, Antenna height, and specific technical information such as output EIRP, Max Gain, and input power for each specific antenna type.

  6. Remote Control: 

    For earth stations that are permitted to be controlled remotely, this section will list the address and contact information to address any interference concerns.

  7. Antenna Structure Marking and Lighting Requirements: 

    Any specific provisions for lighting or marking of the earth station will be listed here. Reasons for any conditions include: height of an earth station, vicinity to airports or other infrastructure, or is otherwise an obstruction. 47 U.S.C. §303(q).

  8. Special and General Provisions: 

    This portion of the license lists conditions applicable to the license grant. These conditions range from the general - such as stating that operation of the station is subject to 47 CFR part 25 – to the specific – such as limits placed on antenna types associated with the grant or waivers of Commission rules or regulations.
    At times, the conditions of a license may include restatements of the Commission’s rules that are specific to the service being provided or the use of the stations. However, unless otherwise waived, a licensee is required to adhere to all applicable Commission rules and regulations regardless of whether they are restated in a station authorization. The conditions of a license generally provide for exceptions rather than a finite list of applicable rules – such as instances in which rules have been waived for good cause or public interest considerations, there are standards applied to the technical parameters or limitations of operations, or limitations are placed on the operations of a station outside of technical parameters based on sharing agreements or concessions by the licensee.  Any restatements of the Commission’s rules or regulations are there as a courtesy, but not as an exhaustive list of the rules and regulations a licensee is required to follow.

License Term:

Earth station licenses are granted for a period of 15 years or the same length as that of its satellite point of communication. The Commission does reserve the right to grant or renew station licenses for less than 15 years if, in its judgment, the public interest, convenience and necessity, will be served by such action.
Renewals for Earth Station licenses must be filed on FCC Form 312R no earlier than 90 days and no later than 30 days before the expiration of the license. Operators are permitted to continue operating pursuant to 47 CFR 1.62 while their renewal applications are processing.

License Costs:

Applicants must pay appropriate application fees at the time of filing and  regulatory fees on an annual basis thereafter for part 25 licensees and market access grantees. For a further description of the FCC’s Application and Regulatory  fees see  It is important to note that fees are subject to change.

The information provided in this webpage is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be exhaustive, nor is it intended to serve as legal guidance or precedent. Most filing requirements are detailed in the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 151 et. seq., or the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) found in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Also, some filing requirements are set forth in orders or as conditions to authorizations. The information provided in this webpage does not amend, replace, or supersede any statute or any rule, order, or authorization adopted by the FCC. The information provided in this webpage is not controlling in case of discrepancies between this webpage and any statute or any rule, order, or authorization adopted by the FCC. In all cases, independent research and determination of the applicability of any statute or FCC rule, order, authorization, or requirement is required. The information provided in this webpage does not bind the FCC and does not create any rights, benefits, expectations, or defenses—substantive or procedural—that are enforceable by any party in any manner. The FCC retains the discretion to adopt approaches on a case-by-case basis, where appropriate, that may differ from the discussion on this webpage.

[1] The following acronyms are used in the chart:
AFFPN: Accepted for filing Public Notice
PN: Public Notice
NTIA: National Telecommunications and Information Administration
FCC: Federal Communications Commission

Thursday, December 7, 2023