WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leading telecommunications regulator in the US on Thursday approved a plan by Elon Musk's SpaceX to build a global satellite broadband network.
"This is the first approval of a US-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low earth orbit satellite technologies, "states a statement from the Federal Communications Commission.
SpaceX's privately owned system, known as Space Exploration Holdings, will use 4,425 satellites, the FCC said.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai backed SpaceX's efforts in February, saying, "Satellite technology can help reach Americans living in rural or inaccessible places where fiber optic cables and cell towers can not get there."
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on April 2 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. "The rocket will carry a communications satellite," said the FAA.
According to the FCC, SpaceX has been authorized to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) frequency ranges.
Musk, who is also the founder and CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla Inc., said in 2015 that SpaceX was planning to launch a satellite Internet business that would help finance a future city on Mars.
SpaceX wanted to create a "global communication system" that Musk compared to "rebuilding the Internet in space." It would be faster than traditional internet connections, he said.
Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests from OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat for access to the US market for satellite broadband services, which, according to the FCC, "extend Internet access in remote and rural areas" land.
Roughly 14 million Land Americans and 1.2 million Americans in tribal areas lack mobile broadband even at relatively slow speeds.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said on Thursday that the agency must "get up." It also emphasized the problem of space debris and said that the FCC must "more closely coordinate with other federal actors to find out what our national policies are for this jumble of new space activities.
Reporting by Eric Walsh and David Shepardson, edited by Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler