FCC Discloses ‘Serious Doubts’ On SpaceX’s Broadband Service

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The broadband Internet that SpaceX hopes to bring forward may be a diamond in the rough at these phases, after all. In a recent report on CNet, it has been revealed that SpaceX takes around a month to convince Federal Communications officials that it is meeting requirements on delivering broadband to rural parts of the nation.

It is being scrutinized on the grounds of participation in the upcoming auction for government subsidies regarding its development. The agency particularly said it has “serious doubts” that SpaceX, being a low-Earth orbit satellite provider, can be able to meet latency requirements, earning it the qualification to take part in this auction.

FCC also made assertions in their report last week, detailing these procedures and requirements for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction’s first phase, set to start this October. They said it may allow low-Earth orbit satellite providers to apply for qualification in the funds and be categorized as low-latency broadband providers, but doubtful these providers can meet the “sub-100 milliseconds latency requirement.”

The agency issued a statement, “We are unaware of any low-Earth orbit network capable of providing a mass market retail broadband service to residential consumers that could meet the commission’s 100 ms round-trip latency requirements.”

It added, “We therefore have serious doubts that any low-Earth orbit networks will be able to meet the short-form application requirements for bidding in the low latency tier.”

SpaceX promises to deliver broadband via low-Earth orbiting satellites and announced this weekend that it had launched 58 satellites into space. With this, it now consists of around 500 satellites in orbit. However, the SpaceX Starlink broadband brand has yet to provide the commercial service but is part of the space launch. It may have limited offering in the northern United States and Canada by the end of this year, with the service materializing in 2021 or 2022, Tech Times also reported yesterday.

SpaceX also clarifies though that their technology can meet the latency requirements set by the FCC. During a May 29 ex-party letter filed with the agency, it described a phone conversation that happened between one of the agency’s staffs and SpaceX, explaining that it had elaborated that “its system easily clears the commission’s 100ms threshold for low-latency services, even including its ‘processing time’ during unrealistic worst-case situations.”

However, time is running out fast if SpaceX desires to take advantage of the first round of government subsidies for the FCC, especially for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The ruling for these $20.4 billion funds is calling for these subsidies to be distributed in two phases with reverse auction when sharing the finances.

The first phase starts in October and will allocate about $16 billion in funding for areas where no high-speed Internet is available right at the moment. Interested parties must submit auction applications on or before July 15, to give SpaceX a month to convince the agency.

In addition, the FCC has initially approved the plan of SpaceX to offer global satellite broadband services in 2018. The goal is to offer low-latency broadband to rural and remote areas with less Internet and to improve the coverage and speed of areas where access isn’t as strong. Eventually, the company wishes to construct 12,000 satellites providing services around the world.

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