Facebook has backed a petition from the Elefante Group proposing the FCC modify its rules to help regulate and enable deployment of stratospheric-based communications services in the United States.
In its May petition, Elefante, working with Lockheed Martin, said its airship-based radio stations, generically referred to as stratospheric platform stations (STRAPS), would operate at fixed locations about 65,000 feet high and support 1 Tbps in both directions for Internet of Things applications and residential broadband services, among others.
Facebook, in an Aug. 15 filing, told the Commission that it supports Elefatne’s bid to modify part of the agency’s rules, but is requesting the rulemaking examine whether to modify rules to enable stratospheric platforms, including high altitude platform stations (HAPS) in the full 24.25-27.5 GHz band, rather than the more narrow 25.25-27.5 GHz band Elefante requests. As well as in the 28-39.5 GHz band that has been studied internationally for HAPS identification.
Facebook has invested in HAPS-related R&D, and demonstrated the feasibility of HAPS aircraft with its Aquilia HAPS initiative that ended earlier this year. However, the company indicated it continues to partner with others on HAPS development and policy issues.
In a reply to earlier comment to its petition, Elefante clarified that its STRAPS are not identical to HAPS, as they operate over a different altitude range and would use different spectrum in order to achieve data throughput performance requirements and spectrum efficiency.
Spectrum auctions in the 24 GHz band are already slated for this year, and in the 39 GHz band next year, which Facebook said it supports. In its filing Facebook asserted that “initiating a rulemaking for stratospheric platforms now, while auctions in at least two of the HAPS study bands are imminent, will better ensure that eventual spectrum winners and licensees will have the flexibility sought by the commission in Spectrum Frontiers, as well as by Congress in the Communications Sct.”
Elefante estimated that a high-altitude system could represent an 80 percent cost reduction over ground-based infrastructure, and Facebook said it believes such cost reduction merits exploration by the FCC, particularly in light of its statutory mandate to make communications affordable and accessible to everyone across the country.
“Given HAPS’ flexibility, capacity, large footprint, and lower-than-satellite latency, Facebook agrees with Elefante that HAPS backhaul will enable and complement 4G, 5G and IoT-enabling services and technologies,” Facebook wrote in the filing.
Facebook also supports Elefante’s proposal that a new, independent proceeding should be initiated rather than potential rule changes that would allow HAPS under Spectrum Frontiers.
“The HAPS ecosystem needs a separate proceeding because several issues related to HAPS have not been raised under the existing broader Spectrum Frontiers proceeding.”
Facebook also said that initiating a rulemaking will not slow 5G in the 26 GHz band or other bands already assigned for UMFUS.
“Through granting Elefante’s Petition, and creating a forum to develop technical co-existence rules for high-altitude stations that optimize spectral efficiency, the Commission will enable a wider range of platforms to extend broadband to all Americans,” Facebook said.