FCC Proposes DBS Ops Share Spectrum


The Federal Communications Commission has proposed that
direct-broadcast satellite operators share their Ku-band spectrum with new technologies,
such as non-geostationary-orbit satellites (NGSO).

The FCC two weeks ago adopted a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking, seeking comments from the DBS incumbents.

The agency said the use of such NGSO satellites could
provide global high-speed data services, and thus further competition to DBS, cable and
wireless cable.

SkyBridge L.P. hopes to use the spectrum to launch a
high-speed, two-way communications service in 2001. The company plans to launch a fleet of
80 low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites to offer broadband local access through
telecommunications distributors based around the globe. Those distributors may include
telephone companies, cable operators, DBS providers, Internet service providers or others
that wish to deliver broadband services to businesses and consumers.

The 1997 World Radiocommunications Conference permits NGSO
operations in Ku-band, subject to certain spectrum-sharing criteria, according to the FCC.

David Finkelstein, senior vice president for marketing and
business development at SkyBridge, said it was "absolutely appropriate" that DBS
operators want to ensure that there is no possibility of interference with their own
Ku-band services. He added that every technical analysis done to date has allayed any
concern over interference.

Finkelstein said that because they're farther from
earth, DBS birds have a five-second signal-propagation delay, which makes them unsuitable
for high-speed data services. LEO satellites, on the other hand, can take a signal and
send it back in about 30 milliseconds, he said.

SkyBridge will spend $4.2 billion to build and launch the
satellites and to implement ground tracking and control centers around the world,
Finkelstein said.

Northpoint Technology also hopes to share Ku-band spectrum
with DBS providers, although it has no plans to launch either DBS or LEO satellites.
Instead, the company has developed a patented, terrestrial technology for transmitting
local broadcast signals to DBS-style dishes.

Northpoint hopes to provide DBS subscribers with
transmissions from local TV stations that can be integrated directly into their DBS
receivers and electronic programming guides.

According to president Sophia Collier, Northpoint
transmitters would send signals from the north -- hence the name -- rather than from the
direction of the equator, as U.S. DBS providers do.

The company tested the technology last year in rural
Kingsville, Texas, and plans a second round of testing starting early next month in
Austin, Texas.

Collier said it would take relatively little cost to create
a local transmitting system. She added that national consumer electronics retailer Circuit
City has been active in putting the Northpoint proposal forward, and she expects it to
sign on as an active partner.