Although Key Commission rules related to earth station licensing and operation provides a summary and overview of many of the Commission’s rules and regulations related to earth stations, some of the service specific and band specific rules are more complex. Below is an overview of these rule parts for earth stations in motion (ESIMs), Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) and Special Temporary Authority (STAs). In addition, we provide an overview of the coordination requirements standard applications and STAs must go through. The information below is meant only to provide an overview, however interested applicants and operators should review the Commission’s rules carefully to ensure compliance. 

Earth Stations In Motion (47 CFR § 25.228):

  1. The term earth stations in motion (ESIM) as defined in the Commission’s rules is a broad term that incorporates three different types of ESIMs. These are earth stations aboard aircraft (ESAA), earth stations on vessel (ESV), and vehicle-mounted earth stations (VMES). 47 CFR §  25.103. The definitions of each of the above services can be found in  Overview of key Commission rules related to earth station licensing and operation as well as in Section 25.103 of the Commission’s rules.
  2. There are both general rules for all ESIMs and service specific rules that are applicable only to specific types of ESIMs (e.g.,  ESV, ESAA, or VMES). The rules for all ESIMs are found within Section 25.228 of the Commission’s rules. However, ESIM operators must also follow, and be in compliance with, all other applicable Commission rules or regulations, and are not limited to only the rules found in 47 CFR 25.228.
    1. The general ESIM rules are found in Sections 25.228(a) – (d) of the Commission’s rules. These rules generally apply to all ESIM services regardless of band or service (I.e., if the earth station is a ESV, ESAA, or VMES).
    2. Rules that are applicable only to ESV operations are found in Sections 25.228(e) and 25.228(h) of the Commission’s rules. 47 CFR 228(e) includes information related to operators control of ESVs and point of contact requirements, among others. Although the Commission does not have the power to license ESVs communicating with foreign vessels (see 47 U.S.C. §  306), the Commission’s rules do apply to ESVs on foreign vessels in certain circumstances as outlined in Section 25.228 of the Commission’s rules. In addition, certain international treaty obligations also apply. 47 CFR 25.228(h) contains operation and coordination requirements specific to ESV operations in the 3700–4200 MHz (space-to-Earth) and 5925–6425 MHz (Earth-to-space) frequency bands of ESVs receiving from or transmitting to GSO satellites in the Fixed-Satellite Service. (47 CFR § 25.228(h)). All ESV operators, regardless of whether they are communicating with U.S. registered vessels or foreign registered vessels, should familiarize themselves with these rules.
    3. Rules applicable only to VMES are found in Section 25.228(f). Specifically, the rules require that  there must be a point of contact in the United States, with phone number and address, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with authority and ability to cease all emissions from the VMESs. (47 CFR § 25.228(f)).
    4. Rules that are applicable only to ESAAs can be found in Sections 25.228(g) and (i) of the Commission’s rules. Section 25.228(g) of the Commission’s rules are applicable to all ESAAs regardless of frequency band. This includes point of contact requirements, operations in foreign airspace, and Commission licensing requirements. When operating in foreign airspace, ESAA operators must operate under the Commission's rules, or those of the foreign administration, whichever is more constraining. (47 CFR § 25.228(g)). 47 CFR 25.228(i) is specific to ESAAs operating in the 14.0–14.5 GHz band from international airspace within line-of-sight of the territory of a foreign administration where fixed service networks have primary allocation in this band. (47 CFR § 25.228(i)).
  4. ESIM use in the Fixed Satellite Service in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band also has specific requirements that all ESIM operators using that band must follow. As outlined in Section 25.228(j) of the Commission’s rules, additional coordination requirements, EIRP limitations, and location monitoring requirements exist for different frequency bands. Any operator proposing to operate an ESIM in portions of the 14.0-14.5 GHz band should familiarize themselves with the rules and requirements of this section.

Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (47 CFR § 25.136):

  1. Specific rules and requirements that alleviate the need to protect UMFUS apply to earth stations that operate in the 24.75–25.25 GHz, 27.5–28.35 GHz, 37.5–40 GHz, 47.2–48.2, GHz and 50.4–51.4 GHz bands.
  2. Although the rules have specific criteria depending on the frequency band that an operator must meet to not be required to provide interference protection to UMFUS stations, generally, if an applicant demonstrates compliance with the criteria :
    1. There are no more than two other authorized earth stations within the county. Multiple earth stations that are collocated with or at a location contiguous to each other shall be considered one earth station.
    2. Applicable maximum population coverage limits.
    3. The contours do not contain any major event venue, urban mass transit route, passenger railroad, or cruise ship port or cross any Interstate, Other Freeways and Expressways, or Other Principal Arterial as defined in 23 CFR § 470.105(b).
  3. However, applicants must carefully review the specific rules in 47 CFR 25.136 as they pertain to frequency bands the applicant wishes to use to ensure they are meeting the requirements to operate on a protected basis.

Special Temporary Authority (47 CFR § 25.120):

  1. Commission rules permit that an applicant can request special temporary authority (STA) to operate or install new or modified equipment in circumstances requiring immediate or temporary use of facilities. (47 CFR § 25.120).
  2. The STA request must contain the full particulars of the proposed operation including all facts sufficient to justify the temporary authority sought and the public interest therein. (47 CFR § 25.120(a)). This means, that an STA must contain all of the relevant information that would be required in a standard earth station application as outlined in the applicable Commission rules and regulations. Further, and as discussed in more detail below, STAs are subject to coordination requirements depending on the bands within which they intend to operate. STA applications must be complete on their own. Lack of information or public interest justification may result in delays or denial of the application.
  3. The Commission may grant a temporary authorization only upon a finding that there are extraordinary circumstances requiring temporary operations in the public interest and that delay in the institution of these temporary operations would seriously prejudice the public interest. Convenience to the applicant, such as marketing considerations or meeting scheduled customer in-service dates, will not be deemed sufficient for this purpose. (47 CFR § 25.120(b)(1)).
  4. STAs are granted on a secondary, non-interference, unprotected basis.
  5. STAs can be granted for 30, 60, or 180 days subject to the following conditions (47 CFR §§ 25.120(b)(2)-(4)):
    1. The Commission may grant a temporary authorization for a period not to exceed 180 days, with additional periods not exceeding 180 days, if the Commission has placed the special temporary authority (STA) request on public notice.
    2. The Commission may grant a temporary authorization for a period not to exceed 60 days, if the STA request has not been placed on public notice, and the applicant plans to file a request for regular authority for the service.
    3. The Commission may grant a temporary authorization for a period not to exceed 30 days, if the STA request has not been placed on public notice, and an application for regular authority is not contemplated.  

Coordination requirements (47 CFR § 25.251 and 47 CFR § 25.272 and 47 CFR § 25.203)

  1. Commission rules require that all earth station licensees - whether that is via special temporary authority (STA) or a standard license - comply with coordination requirements.
  2. First, applicants and operators must adhere to Section 25.251 of the Commission’s rules which states:
      1. The administrative aspects of the coordination process are set forth in [the Commission’s rules] in the case of coordination of terrestrial stations with earth stations, and in § 25.203 in the case of coordination of earth stations with terrestrial stations.
      2. The technical aspects of coordination are based on Appendix 7 of the International Telecommunication Union Radio Regulations and certain recommendations of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (available at the address in § 0.445 of this chapter).
  3. Second applicants must comply with Section 25.272(d) of the Commission’s rules:
      1. (1) The earth station licensee shall ensure that there is continuously available means of communications between the satellite network control center and the earth station operator or its remote control point as designated by the licensee.
      2. (2) The earth station operator shall notify the satellite network control center and receive permission from the control center before transmitting to the satellite or changing the basic characteristics of a transmission.
      3. (3) The earth station operator shall keep the space station licensee informed of all actual and planned usage.
      4. (4) Upon approval of the satellite network control center, the earth station operator may radiate an RF carrier into the designated transponder. Should improper illumination of the transponder or undue adjacent transponder interference be observed by the satellite network control center, the earth station operator shall immediately take whatever measures are needed to eliminate the problem.   (47 CFR § 25.272(d)).
  4. Third, applicants must adhere to the coordination requirements of Section 25.203 of the Commission’s rules. This section prescribes the mechanisms and procedures that earth station operators, other than ESIMs, must follow to coordinate with existing terrestrial users and with applicants for terrestrial station authorizations with previously filed applications. (47 CFR § 25.203(c)).
  5. Applicants, other than those for ESIMs, in a frequency band shared with equal rights with terrestrial microwave services shall compute the great circle coordination distance contour(s) for the proposed station.
      1. The applicant shall submit with the application a map or maps drawn to appropriate scale and in a form suitable for reproduction indicating the location of the proposed station and these contours. These maps, together with the pertinent data on which the computation of these contours is based, including all relevant transmitting and/or receiving parameters of the proposed station that is necessary in assessing the likelihood of interference, an appropriately scaled plot of the elevation of the local horizon as a function of azimuth, and the electrical characteristics of the earth station antenna(s), shall be submitted by the applicant in a single exhibit to the application. The coordination distance contour plot(s), horizon elevation plot, and antenna horizon gain plot(s) required by this section may also be submitted in tabular numerical format at 5° azimuthal increments instead of graphical format. At a minimum, this exhibit shall include the information listed in paragraph (c)(2) of this section. An earth station applicant shall also include in the application relevant technical details (both theoretical calculations and/or actual measurements) of any special techniques, such as the use of artificial site shielding, or operating procedures or restrictions at the proposed earth station which are to be employed to reduce the likelihood of interference, or of any particular characteristics of the earth station site which could have an effect on the calculation of the coordination distance.  (47 CFR § 25.203(b)).
  6. 47 CFR 25.203(c)-(n) outlines the manner and information required for coordination both generally and depending on the service or frequency bands. Applicants should carefully review what is required as part of their applications for the services and frequency bands they intend to use.
  7. As noted above, ESIMs are subject to specific coordination requirements as outlined in Section 25.136 of the Commission’s rules.
  8. In bands shared with the Federal Government, the Commission coordinates with NTIA through the Frequency Assignment Subcommittee (FAS) of the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC). In certain circumstances, the earth station licensee is responsible for post licensing coordination. 

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.

Thursday, December 7, 2023