Alden Orrery – Orrery Update July 2022

By Joanne Wheeler | 8 July, 2022 Posted in Articles and Publications

Orrery Update July 2022

Consultation on extending access in the Ku band (14.25-14.5 GHz). Ofcom has published a consultation on its proposals to enable satellite operators to access additional capacity in the Ku band (14.25-14.5 GHz). This Orrery Update describes Ofcom’s proposals and the possible impact on the space industry.

Demand for Ku band

There is a pressing and growing need for Ku band spectrum to be made available in the UK to meet the demand for satellite services. In particular, there is increasing demand for broadband services to connect hard-to-reach and rural areas, commercial aircraft, commercial and passenger ships, offshore energy facilities and utilities. Access to both Ku and Ka band is needed to meet this demand.

This growing demand has placed significant strain on the available spectrum for satellite services utilising the upper half of the 14.0-14.50 GHz frequency band (14.25-14.50 GHz band). Currently, use of the 14.25-14.50 GHz band is limited to fixed wireless links, radio astronomy and fixed satellite services. The demand for access by fixed links is decreasing due to fixed links ceasing or migrating out of this band, while the demand for satellite services is increasing. Therefore, there is a significant opportunity for the UK to make better use of this spectrum.

The wider 14-14.5 GHz band is already authorised for use by a wider range of satellite services in Europe, the United States and across the Asia Pacific region. Therefore, there is a genuine need for the UK to extend access to this band to be competitive internationally.

Ofcom proposal

Ofcom committed to exploring demand for access to the Ku band in its Plan of Work 2022/23. Consistent with this commitment and Ofcom’s aim to enable satellite systems to develop and grow, Ofcom has published a consultation on its proposals to enable satellite operators to access additional capacity in the 14.25-14.5 GHz band.

Ofcom’s proposals include the following:

  1. enabling satellite operators to access additional capacity under a Satellite (Earth Station Network) licence in the 14.25-14.5 GHz band;
  2. introducing new conditions to protect existing radio astronomy sites in the 30 MHz between 14.47-14.5 GHz; for aeronautical terminals, no use will be permitted at 14.47-14.5 GHz, and for land and maritime terminals, use will be restricted around the radio astronomy sites; and
  3. introducing temporary and bespoke conditions to protect any fixed links remaining temporarily in the band.

Ofcom intends to allow licensees wishing to access the 14.25-14.5 GHz band to request a variation to their licence or apply for a new licence.

Opportunities for industry participation

The consultation is open until 31 August 2022 and responses can be made via the consultation response form (available here).

Ofcom’s proposals, in our view, are crucial steps toward establishing the essential connectivity required for the growing satellite industry. We encourage Ofcom to implement these proposals as soon as possible to bring the UK into line with other countries that already provide extended access to the Ku band.