The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will next week discuss changes to satellite constellation regulation and fees, an effort needed to keep space useful for communications
The ITU currently charges flat fees when called upon to consider how to accommodate a satellite's communications needs, a scheme developed a time when geostationary orbits dominated the satellite business. As a bird in such an orbit hovers over one spot on Earth, it's relatively easy to assess its requirements.
Today, however, governments and entrepreneurs have considered satellite fleets comprising dozens or even dozens or hundreds of birds, in all sorts of orbits. The work required to plan for such satellites' operations has therefore become very complex indeed.
The ITU started to plan for more complex operations last year, producing a plan shortly before Christmas 2017.
That plan puts forward three possible fee scenarios:
- Bespoke fees for each configuration – The ITU noted that "The advantage of this approach is that it maintains consistency with the regulatory decision by WRC-15, is simple, understandable and fully transparent and does not affect smaller or simpler systems that only have one set of orbital characteristics” ;
- Flat fee for a set maximum number of satellites – The ITU suggested a maximum number of 1,000 satellites, with a supplementary fee after that number; or
- Base additional fees on EPFD (equivalent power-flux density) computations.
Next week, the report will be considered by the ITU's Council Working Group on Financial and Human Resources on Thursday, and after that, by the Radio Regulations Board and ITU-R Working Parties in March.
If all goes well, those deliberations should mean the ITU has sufficient resources to run its ruler over future satellite swarms so that the only interference they encounter is bureaucratic and friendly.®