ATG and SkyTower Face Regulatory Hurdles

Besides technical challenges and the need to raise considerable sums of money for systems that operate at the edge of the stratosphere, ATG and SkyTower both need to overcome considerable regulatory hurdles before they can translate their sky-high visions into reality.

At the 2000 World Radio Conference, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a Geneva-based United Nations body that allocates spectrum worldwide in consultation with its member countries, endorsed the use of the High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) that ATG and SkyStation plan to deploy. But a resolution at the end of that meeting left it up to individual countries to consider issues such as interference between HAPS systems and terrestrial cellular service as well as fixed, point-to-point satellite systems, prior to the World Radio Conference in 2003.

The ITU designated the 37.2-GHz to 47.5-GHz and 47.9-GHz to 48.2-GHz bands for use by HAPS systems and also called for the study of frequency use in the 18-GHz to 32-GHz bands, used by point-to-point, fixed satellite systems to distribute national and international services such as voice, data and television programming to cable TV systems.

An informal working group of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission preparing for the 2003 World Radio Conference opposed the use of much of the 18-GHz to 32-GHz bands by HAPS systems due to concerns that they would cause interference to fixed satellite systems (see a draft of the group's views). The FCC would limit the frequencies SkyTower and ATG -- or companies that operate their platforms -- could use to offer broadband data.

The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Unions (CEPT) also raised concerns about interference between HAPS systems and cellular or mobile operations. In a draft brief (download PDF) for the 2003 World Radio Conference, the CEPT said studies have shown that HAPS systems can cause interference with existing, second-generation mobile phone systems and high-speed 3G systems currently being installed throughout the world.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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