The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Wednesday that it approved Boeing’s application for authorization to build, deploy and operate a satellite constellation, adding to an increasingly crowded market.

In Boeing’s case, its plans have been on hold for more than five years, while a lot of other higher-profile satellite systems have soared into orbit.

Boeing revealed its plans back in 2016 and filed an application in 2017 for a proposed system, known as the “V-band Constellation,” which will consist of 132 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The V-band generally refers to frequencies ranging from 40 to 75 GHz. Boeing’s system also calls for 15 non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites.

Boeing plans to provide broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users in the United States and globally, according to the FCC application.    

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In a statement, Boeing thanked FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and the FCC for granting the license, enabling it to proceed with launching and operating a non-geostationary satellite constellation in the V-band. The company stopped short of sharing a timeline for its next steps.

“Boeing sees a multi-orbit future for satellite technologies. As the demand for satellite communications grows, diversity will be required across orbital regimes and frequencies to satisfy unique customer demands, and we see V-band as helping to provide some of that diversity,” Boeing stated. “While the application was in review with the FCC, we have continued work identifying compelling use cases for V-band and maturing the underlying technology.”

Specifically, the FCC’s order approves Boeing’s application for a NGSO fixed-satellite service system using frequencies in portions of the V-band and to operate inter-satellite links (ISLs). The FCC said it dismissed Boeing’s request to operate ISLs in certain frequency bands that are not allocated internationally via the ITU Radio Regulations.

“Advanced satellite broadband services have an important role to play in connecting hard-to-serve communities,” Chairwoman Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We are committed to a careful and detailed review of all such applications and I thank the International Bureau team for their work completing this first round of NGSO applications.”

RELATED: Boeing seeks permission to launch satellite constellation in same V-band spectrum as 5G systems

The vote was 3-0, with Commissioner Geoffrey Starks abstaining. According to Commissioner Starks’ office, he opted not to participate because he owns a small amount of Boeing stock.

Boeing is among a cluster of entities hoping to connect with satellites. The Starlink venture under SpaceX expects to eventually consist of many thousands of mass-produced small satellites, while Amazon’s Kuiper wants to operate thousands of LEO satellites of its own.

OneWeb currently has more than 280 LEO satellites in orbit and plans to have a total of 648 satellites orbiting by the middle of next year.

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Boeing hasn’t traditionally been a direct competitor to terrestrial cellular operators. But it’s a large manufacturer of commercial satellites and has been a leader in the satellite industry since the launch of Syncom, the first geosynchronous communications satellite, more than 50 years ago.


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