NEW YORK-The Federal Communications Commission could propose by early next year rules governing eligibility for applicants seeking access to the part of the 2 GHz spectrum allocated for mobile satellite systems in this country.

The commission set a late-August deadline for comments on a petition from an ICO Global Communications Ltd. subsidiary seeking a rule making to establish eligibility requirements for 2 GHz MSS carriers.

“ICO takes this step because although the [International Telecommunication Union] World Administrative Radio Conference allocated spectrum to MSS in 1992, the [FCC] in mid-1998 does not appear close to authorizing qualified 2 GHz MSS systems to compete with previously licensed MSS systems offering similar service in the U.S. market,” the petition said.

The preliminary prospectus for London-based ICO Global’s initial public offering, which sold July 31, said, “Successful implementation of the ICO system will require access to the 2 GHz band for service links (between) the ICO phone (and) the ICO satellite.”

ICO expects to launch the first of 12 satellites in December for its proposed $4.6 billion medium-earth-orbit system. It plans to offer voice and data communications services commercially worldwide by 2000.

“ICO is one of the first non-U.S. based MSS systems seeking access to the U.S. market at 2 GHz … (and) one of the few systems … not already licensed to provide MSS in the United States in other spectrum bands,” the petition said.

“Competition will not be best served by granting additional spectrum at this time to entities that have not yet begun to utilize any previously granted spectrum and that will only warehouse any additional spectrum granted near term in the 2 GHz frequencies.”

Instead, the ICO petition asked the FCC to consider only new entrants for 2 GHz spectrum allocation. Such a condition would eliminate from consideration four big low-earth-orbit entities already licensed here for MSS in the 1.6 GHz to 2.4 GHz bands, none of which today provides commercial MSS service under their existing licenses, the document said. Those companies are Mobile Communications Holdings Inc., Constellation Communications Inc., Iridium L.L.C. and Globalstar L.P.

That type of restriction would follow the course of action the FCC followed in proposals for “the second little LEO processing round,” the ICO petition said.

Among other things, ICO’s petition also asked the FCC to “fulfill its statutory mandate by adopting eligibility requirements that applicants be legally, financially and technically qualified to provide MSS at 2 GHz, particularly in light of the conceptual nature of many of the 2 GHz applicants’ systems.”

Comments on the ICO petition are due Aug. 27. Reply comments are due Sept. 11, said Karl Kensinger, a special adviser to the satellite division of the FCC’s International Bureau. At some point thereafter, the commission will issue a notice of proposed rule making, he said.

“The process typically takes a few months, so ballpark we’re talking about the end of this year or early next,” Kensinger said.


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