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SpaceX Bullish on WRC-23 EPFD Activity, Possible Rule Changes

SpaceX is "pretty happy" with the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference action on higher power levels for non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites, David Goldman, vice president-space policy, said Wednesday at a Broadband Breakfast event. WRC-23 wrapped up last week in Dubai…

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(see 2312150012). Current ITU equivalent power flux density restraints are "very, very constraining for next-generation systems," he said. Higher power levels for NGSOs would be "a force multiplier," allowing them to serve more customers while remaining below the noise floor for geostationary orbit satellite systems, he said. While there was "lively debate" about higher power levels, including concerns from some nations that rely on GSOs, the outcome -- ITU asking for studies ahead of WRC-27, leaving the door open to updating rules then -- is a big positive, he said. Asked about the FCC's net neutrality proceeding, Kalpak Gude, domestic regulatory affairs head for Amazon's Kuiper, said the company is a net neutrality supporter and operating within the agency's proposed rules should not pose a problem. Gude and SpaceX's Goldman expressed concerns that FCC rules must recognize legitimate network management capabilities for NGSOs. While NTIA's broadband equity, access and deployment program is not technology neutral, with its thumb on the scale in favor of fiber, the agency has indicated NGSO systems can participate and some states are taking a close look at that, Goldman said. He said BEAD cannot reach 100% coverage without a satellite component. He said Starlink qualifies for and will participate in the affordable connectivity program. SpaceX's Starlink has more than 2 million subscribers globally and is operating in more than 80 nations, with Africa its fastest-growing region, he said. Goldman said Starlink has worked through its U.S. backlog and service kits including the antenna are sent within a couple of days of someone signing up online. He said SpaceX will "come close" to hitting its goal of 100 launches this year. Gude said Amazon is "incredibly thrilled" with test results of its two experimental Kuipers in orbit. He said launch of the constellation should start "around the second quarter [of 2024] or so," adding commercial Kuiper service will start in late 2024, but more broad delivery will ramp up in the subsequent couple of years.