Satellite systems future needs | ACMA

Satellite systems future needs

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This article is taken from the ACMA's Five-year Spectrum Outlook 2013-2017, published in September 2013. 

The Five-year spectrum outlook 2013–2017  is available for download as an e-mag, PDF and word document here. The Table of contents and links to individual sections of the report are available here.

Satellite systems have coverage areas referred to as ‘footprints’ that can cover in excess of one-third of t he Earth. As a result, these services cannot be considered solely on a national basis. For this reason, the ITU provides a process for the coordination of satellite systems that is outlined in the ITU Radio Regulations.

Satellite communications have enabled applications requiring international communications or large coverage areas and are an important component of the telecommunications industry. In particular, satellite communications are often the preferred or only solution for the provision of communications to remote and rural areas, especially in developing countries. They also provide an important backup for undersea cables that are vulnerable to being cut as a result of geological movements. The main categories of satellite communications are as follows:

> fixed-satellite service (FSS)—satellites communicating with Earth stations located at fixed, specified locations on the Earth

> mobile-satellite service (MSS)—satellites communicating with Earth stations that move across the Earth’s surface

> broadcasting-satellite service (BSS)—satellites transmitting signals intended for direct reception by the general public.[1]

5.7.1   Current spectrum use

Satellite services operate in a number of different frequency bands making the development of spectrum sharing and coordination arrangements both appropriate and necessary.

Internationally, the major satellite operators of the fixed-satellite service (FSS) and broadcasting-satellite service (BSS) are Intelsat, SES Global and Eutelsat, which operate primarily in the C-, Ku- and Ka- bands.[2] Most Australian coverage comes from footprints of geostationary satellites serving the Asia-Pacific region operated by Intelsat and Optus and, to a lesser extent, others including ASIASAT, APT Group and SES New Skies. In the FSS and BSS markets, television distribution and broadcasting is the dominant service with much of the recent growth in satellite usage attributable to the development of digital television.

In Australia, broadcasting to the public generally uses Ku-band spectrum, with utilisation of C- and Ku-band for contribution feeds. C-band satellite communications currently facilitate important applications including distance learning, telemedicine, universal access and disaster recovery. C-band is also used for feeder links for the MSS. The Ku-band is also used heavily for very small aperture terminal (VSAT) applications and some satellite news gathering (SNG) and digital terrestrial television broadcasting (DTTB) distribution.

The paired FSS allocations 7250–7750 MHz and 7900–8400 MHz are designated to be used in Australia principally for the purposes of defence and Defence holds space licences in these bands.

C-band also provides the primary means of international communications for several developing countries, including some of Australia’s neighbouring Pacific island territories. Australia hosts several teleport Earth stations providing feeder links to major Earth stations on these islands.

The ACMA is aware of unlicensed Earth receive stations operating in the C-band. To investigate this issue of non-compliance, the ACMA released the discussion paper Licensing for Earth receive stations in September 2011. This discussion paper presented a number of options for addressing this issue and sought comment from the satellite community. The submissions made to this consultation process will inform the ACMA’s next steps.

The MSS is more of a niche market based on the needs of specific communities (for example, maritime, aeronautical and transport industries) that require services in regions without alternative infrastructure. The major satellite operators of the MSS in Australia are Inmarsat, Iridium, Globalstar, Orbcomm, Optus and Thuraya. These services primarily use L- and S-band spectrum. Table 5.3 shows the main bands used to provide satellite services in Australia.

Table 5.3 Main satellite spectrum usage in Australia




<1 GHz


Generally shared with RNSS and science services, some Defence use shared with fixed and mobile services. The only exclusive MSS band is for the use of EPIRBs. Generally used for low data rate and messaging requirements.


(1–1.98 GHz)


1525–1559 MHz (downlink) paired with 1626.5–1660.5 MHz (uplink), 1610–1626.5 MHz (uplink) paired with 2483.5 MHz–2500 MHz (downlink)—global or near global coverage by Inmarsat, Iridium, Thuraya and Globalstar services, such as voice, data, fax, paging and digital messaging. Earth stations are class licensed in these bands where the space object apparatus is otherwise licensed.[3] The 1525–1530 MHz and 1660–1660.5 MHz bands are shared with the fixed and radioastronomy services, respectively.

Inmarsat commenced operation of its aeronautical Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service in 2007. Optus MobileSat (1545–1559 MHz (downlink)/1646.5–1660.5 MHz (uplink) on B-series Optus satellites) provides mobile phone coverage for voice, fax and data across Australia and 200 km out to sea.

No new fixed assignments are permitted in the 1525–1530 MHz band to preserve options for the MSS.[4]


(1–1.98 GHz)


1452–1492 MHz—shared with broadcasting, mobile and fixed services (DRCS/HCRC).[5] No new assignments are permitted in order to preserve options for government policy on the introduction of DAB.


(1.98–3.4 GHz)


1980–2010 MHz (uplink)/2170–2200 MHz (downlink) —clearance of these bands to facilitate introduction of the MSS, which have also been identified for the satellite component of IMT). Earth stations can operate under class licence. Few fixed P-P links still operating.

2483.5–2500 MHz (downlink paired with 1610–1626.5 MHz)—used, for example, by Globalstar service downlinks. Earth receivers are authorised to operate under class licence where the space object apparatus is otherwise licensed.

2500–2690 MHz identified for terrestrial component of IMT. Shared with ENG at 2.5 GHz.


(3.4–7.25 GHz)


Significant worldwide use of C-band for commercial fixed-satellite service.

Currently shared with the terrestrial fixed service, use of C-band is authorised by apparatus licences in Australia.

3600–4200 MHz (downlink)/5850–6725 MHz (uplink). This band is used for content delivery for commercial/subscription television.

The principal usage is in ‘standard’ C-band (3700–4200/5925–6425 MHz), although some satellite services also use parts of ‘extended’ C-band (3550–3700/5850–5925 and/or 6425–6725 MHz), which is secondary in Australia in the range 3400–3600 MHz.

5091–5250 MHz (uplink)/6700–7075 MHz (downlink) bands—limited to feeder links for non-geostationary satellite systems of the MSS.



6725–7075 MHz (uplink)—used by AsiaSpace for TCR to ASIABSS satellites; also licensed to SKY Channel and Lockheed Martin.

7250–7750 (uplink)/7900–8400 (downlink)—satellite bands used by Defence—communication with AUSSAT C 156E GOV satellite is class licensed.[6]


(10.7–18.4 GHz)


10.7–11.7 GHz (downlink)—used by iPSTAR in Australia for the provision of broadband connectivity in regional areas, and LBF Australia (French digital TV). Several Earth receive assignments held by NewSat Networks, as well as Lockheed Martin, Pacific Teleports and Soul Pattinson Telecommunications. This band is shared with terrestrial services.

12.2–12.75 GHz (downlink)/14–14.5 GHz (uplink)—Earth stations are class licensed in these bands where the space object is apparatus licensed. These bands are used for direct-to-home (DTH) television services (including Foxtel services on the Optus C1 satellite), SNG, VSAT services including IP broadband and private networks, DTTB distribution and international teleport services. The bands are used by all Optus satellites. There are many Earth receive/space assignments, held by several licensees including Defence, iPSTAR, Lockheed Martin, NewSat Networks, Optus and Telstra.

13.75–14 GHz (uplink)—apparatus licensed due to sharing requirements with radiolocation and space sciences services. Only a few satellites serve Australia using this band.

17.318.4 GHz (uplink)—use by geostationary satellites is limited to feeder links for the BSS. Optus uplinks to Optus D3 BSS satellite use 17.3 to 17.8 GHz with Fixed Earth Licences. Australian fixed Earth assignments are held by Stratos Global, Lockheed Martin and Optus for TT&C operations for BSS satellites.


(10.7–18.4 GHz)


11.7–12.2 GHz—Optus D3, uses this band. Further usage of this band is expected in the medium term.


(17.7–37.5 GHz)



Increasing international use for national and regional broadband connections.

17.721.2 GHz (downlink)/27–31 GHz (uplink)—only the 19.7–20.2 GHz and 29.5–31 GHz bands are not shared with fixed and mobile services, even though Earth stations are class licensed in the 18.8–19.3 GHz / 28.6–29.1 GHz bands. There are also MSS allocations. Iridium feeder links use a portion of these bands, Thaicom (formerly Shin Satellite), also operates in these bands under a 27 GHz spectrum licence. Defence has exclusive access to spectrum-licensed bands 20.2–21.2 GHz/30–31 GHz, via an AUS100 footnote for satellite use by the Department of Defence.

24.75–25.25 GHz (uplink)—shared with the fixed and mobile services, but currently preserved under Embargo 24 pending further planning and satellite service developments.[7]




5.7.2 2013–2017

Issues affecting spectrum demand

Spectrum demands

It is important to consider the type of growth expected for services and applications supplied by the satellite industry, as this will directly influence the demand on spectrum resources. Factors expected to drive demand for satellite spectrum include increasing consumer demand for higher data rates and flexibility to accommodate various uses and increasing government demand and investment in technology.

The highest levels of growth within the satellite industry are expected for handheld and mobile multimedia applications (for the MSS), along with television distribution and broadcasting and the VSAT market (for the FSS and BSS). Various WRC-15 Agenda Items are seeking additional allocations for MSS and FSS. Expected requirements for additional MSS, FSS l class-licensing arrangements within the next five years are limited. There is a general agreement by industry that service providers can continue operations within existing spectrum allocations and licensing arrangements.

There is interest in the international environment to deploy MSS/ATC systems. Should these networks prove successful, it may drive interest in the Australian market. If this occurs, consideration will need to be given to the effects of such a system on co- and adjacent-band services.

The growth that the satellite communications industry has experienced over the past decade is expected to continue for at least the next decade. Satellite communications usually involve a long investment cycle that can average between 15 to 25 years, meaning that long-term strategic planning is necessary so the industry can respond to spectrum allocation changes.

MSS in the L- and S-bands

While for now MSS usage is primarily in L- and S-bands, WRC-15 Agenda item 1.10 is to consider possible additional MSS allocations, principally in the range 22 GHz to 26 GHz. This is unlikely to have a significant effect on the Australian radiocommunications environment within the next five years.

Potential future S-band MSS systems in Australia

The ACMA has identified the S-band (1980–2010 MHz and 2170–2200 MHz) as an alternative band for interim use by ENG services as they transition out of the 2.5 GHz band. Australia also has NGSO MSS satellite networks filed with the ITU in this frequency range. The ACMA will continue to monitor international activities in this band in relation to the development of MSS/ATC systems.

L-band congestion and sharing issues

The L-band is the primary band used by the MSS and the ACMA notes that the existing allocations are congested. Additional spectrum allocations were identified at WRC-03 and WRC-07 but have not yet been fully implemented in Australia. The congestion issues referred to above are further intensified by sharing issues with other services. This may hinder the use of extension bands identified at previous WRCs.

For example, the ACMA applies sharing and coordination rules to protect the following services sharing with MSS:


> passive space research

> RAS.

In light of these factors, future MSS growth is likely to rely on spectrum allocations in the S-band (essentially unused in Australia) and the identified extension bands.

There appears to be little scope for the future expansion of existing networks or the introduction of new networks within existing L-band allocations. Despite the possible introduction of mobile television within the next five to 10 years, along with increased MSS subscriber numbers, additional spectrum requirements for the MSS are not expected to be met within the 2013–2017 time frame.

FSS and BSS in the C-band and higher frequencies

With the MSS spectrum congestion and the identification of the 2500–2690 MHz band for possible future terrestrial IMT use, the FSS and BSS are expected, for the most part, to continue to be limited to frequencies above 3 GHz.[8]


Moderate growth of C-band usage is expected to continue in Australia.

The continued improvement in satellite beam-forming technologies would be expected to result in a gradual migration of some C-band services to Ku-band in the longer term. However, the significant investments in existing C-band Earth station infrastructure would be likely to limit the rate of any such migration. Given this and the fact that certain satellite applications and services require high levels of service availability offered by the C-band, this band is expected to continue to play and ongoing role in international communications, including Australia.[9]

There is industry concern about the possibility of interference from future use of the C-band downlink for IMT, particularly for WiMAX and LTE, and the constraint on future FSS deployments that could result.[10] EC decision 2008/411/EC identifies usage of the 3.6–3.8 GHz band for BWA services from 2012 onwards. Part or all of the ‘extended’ C-band (3400–3600 MHz) was also identified for use by IMT in many countries at WRC-07. While the list of countries does not include Australia, part of the band has already been made available for WAS in regional and remote areas of Australia (3575–3700 MHz). In addition, parts of the extended C-band are already used for WAS under apparatus and spectrum licences.[11]


Defence expects its use of this band to increase with its involvement in the Wideband Global System satellite communications program. Defence has expressed a concern over the interference potential of current sharing arrangements between satellite and terrestrial fixed services in the band and is seeking long-term protection for anchor stations, training areas, and possible protection in areas of higher density use in the future.

Ku- and Ka-bands

The Ku-band is currently experiencing the fastest growth in satellite communications and this is expected to continue well into the future. The widespread use of several communications solutions is expected in this band, including:

> television distribution and broadcasting

> Satellite News Gathering

> broadband

> VSAT data communications, including IP broadband and private networks, and international teleport services

> mobile television—satellite downlinks are being considered in both the S- and Ku-bands and terrestrial retransmission in the S-band.

Television distribution and broadcasting is the dominant service in the FSS and BSS allocations in the Ku- and Ka-bands and growth in these markets is expected in Australia. The expansion of the Optus satellite fleet, intended to support Foxtel’s HDTV and other satellite broadcasting services, is an example of industry anticipating the expected growth in demand. The Optus D3 satellite uses 11.7–12.2 GHz for television broadcasts and 17.3–17.8 GHz for BSS feeder links. The 14.5–14.8 GHz band is also limited to feeder links for the BSS[12], but since parts of the band are designated to be used principally for defence purposes, it is complicated to introduce commercial satellite services within it.

Footnotes 5.502 and 5.503 of the ITU Radio Regulations outline sharing criteria between FSS Earth station transmitters and radiolocation/space research services in the 13.75–14.0 GHz band. Currently, in this band Australian Earth stations must be individually apparatus licensed to facilitate coordination. Industry feedback indicates that, due to the imbalance between FSS uplink and downlink allocations, congestion in 14.0–14.5 GHz band is starting to occur in Australia. As new Ku-band satellites are capable of serving Australia in the 13.75 to 14.0 GHz band, there is some interest in a simplified licensing approach that still satisfies the international sharing arrangements.

Internationally, there is increasing interest in satellite broadcasting at Ka-band frequencies. Agenda item 1.13 of WRC-12 considered the future spectrum usage of the 21.4–22 GHz band for HDTV in the BSS and associated feeder link bands, based on technical and regulatory studies on the harmonisation of spectrum usage and BSS technologies. Under current arrangements, such BSS usage of the band is not considered compatible with existing fixed P-P links in the 22 GHz band. Further information on the fixed service operating in the 22 GHz band is in section 5.3.2.

5.7.3 The ACMA’s proposed approaches

Earth station siting

In August 2011, the ACMA released a discussion paper, Earth Station Siting, outlining the factors that may impact the future viability of satellite Earth stations and space communications facilities in different geographical areas and frequency bands. The purpose of the discussion paper and broader consultation process was to openly discuss some of the factors relevant to current and prospective operators when they consider the geographical and frequency location of Earth stations. Through this discussion, the ACMA intends to provide options for long-term certainty of operations to the satellite and space science industries. See section 5.8.2 for further discussion.

MSS in the L- and S-bands

Within the 2013–2017 time frame, the ACMA expects to maintain current L-band and S-band class-licensing arrangements for MSS services. The ACMA will also monitor any MSS requirements for WRC-03 extension band applications in Australia, including class-licensing arrangements for these bands, and will consider sharing arrangements between MSS and fixed DRCS/HCRC services.

The ACMA will continue to protect DRCS/HCRC in the 1518–1525 MHz band by requesting pfd thresholds on the MSS in this band. Though the current limit was negotiated to ensure that MSS development would not be severely constrained, future sharing arrangements for the potential introduction of MSS services in this extension band may lead to a need to reconsider the pfd limit in more depth.

There are currently no MSS systems operating in the 1668–1675 MHz band in Australia. Potential future use of the band for the MSS may require a study into the feasibility of sharing with RAS facilities at Parkes and Narrabri. In particular, protection of RAS stations at 1660–1670 MHz will need to be considered. This may require the use of separation distances and mobile Earth station output power limits for co-band 1668–1670 MHz MSS systems and adjacent band 1670–1675 MHz MSS systems.[13]

FSS and BSS in the C-band and higher frequencies

For the ACMA’s proposed approaches to L-band BSS, see section 5.2.2. From 2013 to 2017, the ACMA’s apparatus licensing arrangements will maintain current access arrangements to the C-band for satellite Earth stations. As outlined in section 5.7.1, the ACMA has identified non-compliant Earth receive stations operating in the C-band and will be considering this matter in the future. In addition, the ACMA expects to maintain its policy not to support the ubiquitous, uncoordinated deployment of Earth station receivers in bands shared with terrestrial services, particularly the 3.4–4.2 GHz frequency range (standard and extended C-band) and the 10.7–11.7 GHz band.

The ACMA will continue to work with Defence to balance its operational requirements in the X-band with those of the broader community and radiocommunications industry.

The ACMA will maintain Ku-band class-licensing arrangements in the 11.7–12.75 GHz and 14.0–14.5 GHz bands, as strong continued growth is expected in the Ku-band for DTH broadcasting and VSAT applications. Current class-licensing arrangements in the Ku-band are expected to be sufficient to support satellite applications, including HDTV, within the 2013–2017 time frame. However, the ACMA notes some industry interest in revised licensing arrangements in the 13.75–14.0 GHz band. Any consideration of such a revision would require consultation with interested and affected stakeholders in the band.

The ACMA will monitor any international technological and regulatory developments for HDTV services broadcast at 21.4–22.0 GHz. The ACMA will also monitor demands for HDTV BSS systems in Australia, which may involve public and industry consultation.

Ka-band class-licensing arrangements in the 18.8–19.3 GHz and 28.6–29.1 GHz bands will also be maintained, with the expectation that demand for Ka-band DTH broadband applications may arise within the 2013–2017 time frame.

5.7.4 WRC-15 Agenda items

The following WRC-15 Agenda items are relevant to satellite services:

> Agenda item 1.1—to consider additional spectrum allocations to the mobile service on a primary basis and identification of additional frequency bands for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and related regulatory provisions, to facilitate the development of terrestrial mobile broadband applications, in accordance with Resolution 233 [COM6/8] (WRC-12).

> Agenda item 1.6—to consider possible additional primary allocations:

> Agenda item 1.6.1—to the fixed-satellite service (Earth-to-space and space-to-Earth) of 250 MHz in the range between 10 GHz and 17 GHz in Region 1

> Agenda item 1.6.2—to the fixed-satellite service (Earth-to-space) of 250 MHz in Region 2 and 300 MHz in Region 3 within the range 13–17 GHz

> and review the regulatory provisions on the current allocations to the fixed-satellite service within each range, taking into account the results of ITU-R studies, in accordance with Resolutions 151 [COM6/4] (WRC-12) and 152 [COM6/5] (WRC-12), respectively.

> Agenda item 1.7—to review the use of the band 5 091–5 150 MHz by the fixed-satellite service (Earth-to-space) (limited to feeder links of the non-geostationary mobile-satellite systems in the mobile-satellite service) in accordance with Resolution 114 (Rev.WRC-12).

> Agenda item 1.8—to review the provisions relating to earth stations located on board vessels (ESVs), based on studies conducted in accordance with Resolution 909 [COM6/14] (WRC-12).

> Agenda item 1.9—to consider, in accordance with Resolution 758 [COM6/15] (WRC-12).

> Agenda item 1.9.1—possible new allocations to the fixed-satellite service in the frequency bands 7 150–7 250 MHz (space-to-Earth) and 8 400–8 500 MHz (Earth-to-space), subject to appropriate sharing conditions.

> Agenda item 1.9.2—the possibility of allocating the bands 7 375–7 750 MHz and 8 025–8 400 MHz to the maritime-mobile satellite service and additional regulatory measures, depending on the results of appropriate studies.

> Agenda item 1.10—to consider spectrum requirements and possible additional spectrum allocations for the mobile-satellite service in the Earth-to-space and space-to-Earth directions, including the satellite component for broadband applications, including International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), within the frequency range from 22 GHz to 26 GHz, in accordance with Resolution 234 [COM6/16] (WRC-12).

> Agenda item 7—to consider possible changes, and other options, in response to Resolution 86 (Rev. Marrakesh, 2002) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, and advance publication, coordination, notification and recording procedures for frequency assignments pertaining to satellite networks, in accordance with Resolution 86 (Rev.WRC-07) to facilitate rational, efficient, and economical use of radio frequencies and any associated orbits, including the geostationary‑satellite orbit.

5.7.5   Beyond 2017

Potential future deployments and spectrum demand pressures in Australia

It is likely that insufficient spectrum allocations for MSS under 3 GHz will be available for deployment of a MSS/ATC system and mobile television, if subscriber numbers continue to increase. Therefore, additional allocations in L- and S-band spectrum may be required by about 2018. Moreover, the introduction of a MSS/ATC system operating at 1.6 GHz and 2.5 GHz would require the consideration of the RAS at 16101613.5 MHz and ENG services, and possible future WAS applications within the 2500–2690 MHz frequency range.

There is concern within the satellite industry that WAS may impact on satellite usage in the standard C-band (3700–4200 MHz). The ACMA is monitoring international developments in this band and will canvass the possible use for mobile broadband in its service planning for mobile broadband.

Ku-band growth

Growth in the number of satellite television channels will increase spectrum demand, as will the increased proportion of HD transmissions and the expected growth of VSAT deployment numbers and data rates. There is a possibility that this may lead to congestion of Ku-band spectrum allocated to the FSS within the next 10 years, despite considerable portions of unencumbered spectrum. While it is likely that spectrum demand will exceed current satellite capacity within the next 15 years, there are several vacant orbital locations over Australia that could satisfy the estimated demand within current spectrum allocations. Spectrum demand for the BSS is not expected to exceed current spectrum allocations.

Growth in higher frequency bands

The use of Ka-band permits the use of more complex satellite antennas, allowing for a cellular approach to spectrum re-use, which subsequently increases throughput through a satellite. Industry feedback indicates that Ka-band satellite communications may be considered as a means of extending broadband to regional and remote areas. It is already being used in the US and may be relevant to Australia in the future, particularly in the context of NBN.

V- and W-band satellite technology (50–75 GHz and 75–110 GHz) is currently immature and significant utilisation of this spectrum is not expected to materialise within the next 15 years.

[1] In this report, the radiodetermination-satellite service and the RNSS are included in the radiodetermination service section, and the meteorological-satellite and Earth exploration-satellite services are included in the space science services section. The space operations service is also included in the space science services section, since it is concerned with the operation of spacecraft and not limited to the tracking, telemetry and control of satellites.

[2] When discussing satellite services, these band names generally refer to different frequency ranges than those for other services. For the frequency ranges of satellite services corresponding to these band names, refer to Table 5.2.

[3] Radiocommunications (Communication with Space Object) Class Licence 1998, Available:

[4] This is specified in the 1.5 GHz Band Plan; however, fixed P-MP services for the delivery of telecommunications services in rural or remote areas (such as DRCS) are still permitted.

[5] Under Resolution 528, new BSS systems may only be introduced in the upper 25 MHz of the band (i.e. 1467–1492 MHz).

[6] Radiocommunications (Communication with AUSSAT C 156E GOV Satellite Network) Class Licence 2005, available

[7] Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2007, RALI MS03—Embargo 24,

[8] S-band FSS (2500–2535/2655–2690 MHz) and BSS (2520–2670 MHz) allocations are not used in Australia, and satellite applications are not considered feasible here.

[9] The C-band is the only FSS band commonly used for commercial (non-government/military) purposes below 10 GHz. Above 10 GHz, rain attenuation becomes significant. This makes the C-band critical for communications in tropical areas.

[10] WiMAX stands for worldwide interoperability for microwave access.

[11] Since 2000, the 3425–3492.5 MHz and 3542.5–3575 MHz bands have been allocated for spectrum licensing. Seven entities currently hold licences in different geographical areas around Australia.

[12] Use of the 14.5–14.8 GHz band for the FSS is in accordance with the provisions of Appendix 30A of the ITU Radio Regulations. Australia has no Plan or List assignments in the 14.5–14.8 GHz band.

[13] As specified in Article 5.379C of the ITU Radio Regulations.

Last updated: 27 July 2017