The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today granted Row 44 special temporary authority (STA) to operate up to twelve Aeronautical Mobile Satellite Service (AMSS) aircraft earth stations for testing, including in-flight testing. This is big, everybody.
Why the hell is it so big, RWG? Are you somehow addicted to FCC filings? And why do you always write about them on a Friday night? Don't you have a freaking life?
My apologies, folks. One of my alternative personalities somehow broke through and went on a rant. Let me explain in calm and measured tones why this is so big. But before I do, here is the actual document for your perusal: Row 44 STA grant.pdf
Oh yes, and that's me to the left, hanging out of Row 44's testbed aircraft...they've barely talked to me since, ahem.
With this authority, Row 44 gains some significant legitimacy (not that it doesn't already have a golden ticket, because it does!). Oh yes, and it means that Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines can start charging for the service.
Bugger, but you know I'll do it willingly, because I just love my Wi-Fi in the sky!!! Don't you?
There are some conditions, however. For example, condition (a) says that the aircraft shall not be operated on the ground, or within 55 meters of the ground unless appropriate safety protocols are in place.
The exterior surface of the antenna shall be prominently marked with a sign warning of the potential for exposure to high levels of radiofrequency energy.
Make sure to look for some signage on the Southwest and Alaska aircraft soon!
Within 30 days from today, Row 44 must submit the results of its ground based testing to the FCC. Row 44 then has 90 days from today to submit to the FCC a detailed report of the testing per the letter agreement with the satellite operators.
The authorization is not one related to an "activity of a continuing nature", which means that at the end of the 30 day period they won't get an automatic renewal of the STA, and Row 44 will need to renew prior to the expiration of the STA in order to continue operations.
We know that Row 44 has faced objections from ViaSat and others. But here is what the FCC had to say about its decision to grant temporary authority for 12 stations:
"Based upon an evaluation of the facts and circumstances, we conclude that granting the STA request would serve the public interest by facilitating assessment and resolution of concerns regarding interference that might result from full-scale operation as proposed in Row 44's underlying license application.
"We reach that conclusion because the operators of the satellites that would be primarily affected by any interference caused by operation of Row 44's aircraft earth stations - that is, the satellites within six longitudinal degrees of Row 44's three target satellites - have indicated that testing would be appropriate, and have participated in formulation of the test plan.
"Furthermore, there is no indication in the record that ViaSat's current operations could suffer interference from the proposed testing. For these reasons, we grant the special temporary authorization subject to conditions, including a requirement that Row 44 submit test results to the Commission."