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Federal Communications Commission
   
 
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has continued to be involved in making rules to facilitate and regulate the U.S. domestic satellite industry and the licensing of all ground stations and satellite launches. Internationally, the FCC continued to coordinate satellite placement with other countries.

In terms of station licensing, the FCC streamlined the existing application process by introducing the electronic filing of ground- and space-based transmitter and receiver applications. The electronic filing of ground-based applications has enabled the FCC to process applications four times faster than the former, manual mechanism. In FY 1998, the FCC processed more than 10,000 ground-based applications.

In the area of satellite launches, the FCC licensed a number of launches during FY 1998. In January 1998, the FCC authorized COMSAT to participate in the launch, positioning, and onorbit testing of the INMARSAT-3 (F-5) satellite. This satellite will serve as a spare in orbit. In February 1998, the FCC authorized COMSAT to participate in the launch and onorbit testing of the INTELSAT VIII-A (F-6) (INTELSAT 806) satellite, which was launched that month and began commercial service in May 1998. The FCC authorized the Columbia Communications Corporation in March 1998 to acquire and operate an operational C-band satellite from INTELSAT (Columbia-515, formerly INTELSAT 515). Columbia began commercial operation of this satellite the next month. In April 1998, the FCC granted permission to EchoStar to launch a Direct Broadcast Service (DBS) satellite (EchoStar 4), which was launched in May 1998 but, because of technical difficulties, was located in a different orbital location than originally planned. In June 1998, the FCC authorized COMSAT to participate in the launch and testing in orbit of the INTELSAT VIII-A (F-5) (INTELSAT 805) satellite, which later began providing international telecommunications services to the Asia-Pacific region. The FCC authorized PanAmSat in September 1998 to launch and operate a Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) satellite (PAS-21).

In addition, the FCC authorized Orbital Communications Corporation to launch and operate 12 satellites, increasing its total LEO constellation from 36 to 48 satellites. In accordance with its FCC license, Iridium launched the remainder of its LEO satellites (34 were launched in the previous fiscal year) and began testing. The FCC also licensed five so-called "little" LEO systems ("little" refers to the fact that they operate at frequencies lower than 1 GHz). These systems will provide nonvoice mobile satellite service throughout the world. The United States reached an agreement with Canada to allow the use of a common satellite platform for provision of L-band multispectral services to Canada and the United States. Canadian and U.S. officials also reached an agreement on the operation of U.S. Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) in the S-band. The agreement will provide for U.S. satellite DARS systems to operate interference-free with Canadian terrestrial systems.

During FY 1998, the FCC held a number of meetings with its counterpart agencies in foreign governments to facilitate international satellite communications. In particular, the U.S. and Argentine governments agreed on orbital locations for a U.S.-licensed satellite and an Argentine-licensed satellite to serve North America. The agreement was instrumental in facilitating hemispheric services licensed by both countries and in promoting competition in the market for satellite services. FCC officials also held two meetings with their Brazilian counterparts as part of an ongoing effort to coordinate U.S. and Brazilian satellites.

The United States reached an agreement with Canada to allow the use of a common satellite platform for provision of L-band multispectral services to Canada and the United States. Canadian and U.S. officials also reached an agreement on the operation of U.S. Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) in the S-band. The agreement will provide for U.S. satellite DARS systems to operate interference-free with Canadian terrestrial systems.

The U.S. and Indian administrations met to discuss coordinating the PanAmSat satellite systems with Indian satellite networks and to complete the coordination of satellite networks. Japanese and U.S. officials reached coordination agreements on six of eight commercial satellite systems and established working methods to complete the remaining satellite coordinations. Russian and U.S. officials met to coordinate a wide range of satellite networks. They reached coordination agreements and established methods to coordinate other systems in the C-, Ku-, and Ka-bands.

Officials from the United States and the United Kingdom met to discuss coordination between various U.S. and British satellite networks in the Ku- and Ka-bands. The agenda focused primarily on coordination among the U.K. Pacific Centuries Group operator and nine separate U.S.-licensed operators in the Ka-band. Officials also coordinated information exchanges between a large number of U.S.-licensed satellites and British satellites. Both administrations agreed that further exchange of information and coordination may take place directly between satellite operators.

Finally, the United States reached a coordinated agreement with INTELSAT on behalf of Columbia Communications Corporation, a U.S. satellite licensee. Under the agreement, which resolved a long-standing dispute, Columbia is now operating its own satellite, the Columbia-515, which INTELSAT sold to Columbia, and INTELSAT is operating its INTELSAT 806. A coordination agreement has also been reached for the Columbia-515 and INTELSAT's neighboring satellites.

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