Caleb Henry, for SpaceNews, with some news from the International Telecommunication Union:
Regulators meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference this month said that for non-geosynchronous constellation operators to keep their full spectrum rights in the future, they will have to hit deployment milestones that start seven years after requesting the spectrum.
After those seven years, NGSO constellation operators will need to launch 10% of their satellites in two years, 50% in five years and 100% in seven years. If constellation ventures fail to launch enough satellites by the milestones, or within the total 14 years allotted, their spectrum rights are limited proportionally to the number launched before time ran out.
This is definitely an improvement over the status quo, which is that you can launch a single satellite and that covers your spectrum rights for thousands more that you may never launch.
These milestones sound a touch more strict than what the FCC imposes on US constellations—which is 50% in six years and 100% in nine years from when the FCC approves the request. But since the timeline starts 7 years after requesting spectrum, it may be a little more relaxed in practice.
The biggest difference is that missing the FCC milestones limits the number of satellites that can be launched, and missing the new ITU milestones limits spectrum rights.
In general, constellations will need to target the most strict deployment milestone imposed upon them by however their own timelines lay out. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any convergence between the various timelines in the future.