Starlink, Kepler, Swarm seek regulatory approval to start operations in Australia

Max Blenkin

Australia could soon see broadband satellite internet services provided by international operators with three companies seeking approval of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Starlink, Kepler, Swarm seek regulatory approval to start operations in Australia
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One is US businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX with its Starlink network and the other two are Canada’s Kepler Communications and US firm Swarm Technologies.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said these operators had approached it to commence the regulatory approvals process to eventually obtain space apparatus licences to deliver internet and internet of things (IoT) services in Australia.

All three are seeking access to particular radio frequencies regulated by ACMA.

“As for all other types of radio communications, a space-based radio communications system may not be operated in Australia without a licence,” it said in its consultation paper.

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“These operators have approached the ACMA to commence the regulatory approvals process to eventually obtain space apparatus licences to operate in Australia.”

Under the consultation process, anyone can have a say on the various proposals.

ACMA summarised the three proposals.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp, trading as SpaceX, is a private US aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.

It plans a constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, known as Starlink, for the purpose of providing broadband connectivity around the world. SpaceX envisages a constellation initially of some 12,000 satellites and maybe more than 40,0000. It launched the first 60 in May.

Starlink should go live for consumers next year.

Kepler Communications Inc. is a private company based in Toronto, Canada. Kepler plans a constellation of 140 LEO satellites providing multiservice infrastructure capable of supporting IoT connectivity.

It will also operate as a real-time relay network for in-space orbital assets.

Swarm Technologies Inc. is a US satellite company based in Mountain View, California, which is planning a constellation of 150 LEO satellites to provide mobile-satellite services that will offer two-way connectivity for IoT and machine-to-machine sensors.

ACMA said that any satellite operator seeking permission to operate in Australia first needed to pass a “prerequisite” step of being added to the foreign space objects determination maintained by the authority. 

It is now seeking to amend that determination and has invited comment from industry.

“Inclusion of an entity in the foreign space objects determination does not confer a right on that entity to obtain a licence nor operate in frequency bands identified in the space object class licence,” ACMA said.

“Rather, it is a necessary prerequisite that must be in place before a space apparatus licence can be issued.”

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