NGSO satellite power limits to remain unchanged until at least 2031

NGSO satellite power limits to remain unchanged until at least 2031

The debate over power limits for non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite systems saw a resolution of sorts at the World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC-23) in Dubai, with potential regulatory action forestalled until at least 2031.

NGSO advocates had submitted a proposed at WRC-23 that the ITU review its Equivalent Power Flux Density (EPFD) limits for low and medium earth orbit satellites in hopes of changing them at the next WRC in 2027. The EPFD limits cap the power of LEOsat and MEOsat transmissions as they pass over the equator to avoid interfering with geostationary satellites above them.

NGSO operators such as SpaceX and Amazon have argued that the current EPFD limits – which have been in place since 2000 – are outdated, as satellite technology and spectrum management has evolved to enable more efficient higher-power transmissions that won’t interfere with geostationary signals. They also argue that the limits are adversely impacting their constellation plans.

GSO operators oppose any change in EPFD limits because they would disrupt an otherwise stable regulatory regime that has benefited the space business overall, and potentially hurt investment in the GSO sector.

In the end, the ITU decided that technical studies on changing EPFD limits to go ahead and the results reported at WRC-27, but it will not take any regulatory action based on those studies until the following WRC in 2031.

The Alliance for Satellite Broadband – established by Amazon and a handful of think tanks – said in a statement that it’s happy with the decision.

“This is a win for innovation, enabling ITU members to evaluate the EPFD limits in light of modern satellite systems and spectrum management techniques,” the alliance said in a statement. “International regulators have taken a vital step toward revisiting these outdated rules by committing to these studies.”

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