Remarks of David J. Redl
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
March 14, 2018
--As Prepared for Delivery--
“Affirming Our Partnership for Growth and Innovation in Space”
Good morning, and thank you for the warm welcome. It is a pleasure be here today and to attend this impressive conference, which I think captures the excitement and innovative spirit of the satellite and aerospace industries.
For my remarks today, I want to deliver a simple message: NTIA is committed to collaborating with the U.S. satellite industry. As the agency that is principally responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy, NTIA can help create an environment that allows for continued global leadership in the market for satellite-based services and manufacturing. This includes the important role satellites will play in delivering 5G and ensuring that the United States stays on the cutting edge of wireless technology.
I am also here as a representative of the Commerce Department. Under the leadership of Secretary Ross, the Department recognizes how critical the commercial space industry is for economic growth and U.S. competitiveness. At the SIA Leadership Dinner Monday night, Secretary Ross outlined the Administration’s initiative to support space commerce. His plan to move the Office of Space Commerce under his direct oversight signals that this is a high priority for the Department, and that we understand the need to implement a streamlined policy and regulatory approach. NTIA fully supports this initiative.
As the manager of all federal spectrum use, NTIA is doing important work to ensure that we are maximizing the use of our country’s spectrum resources. We are also working to implement policies that allow for the expansion of connectivity, especially in rural and remote areas, where satellites play a key role. And we work extensively in the international arena, coordinating federal agencies’ preparations for major ITU global conferences, including World Radiocommunication Conferences.
There is no doubt that the United States needs a vibrant satellite sector. This industry creates tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and enables millions more in the larger economy. In the next few years, a new era in satellite coverage will strengthen our nation’s broadband infrastructure and power advanced services that will improve people’s lives. In addition to existing broadband capabilities, new satellites will enable lower-latency services in the U.S., expand broadband coverage inside and outside the U.S., and add broadband capacity to the overall satellite infrastructure.
As examples, companies such as OneWeb and SpaceX are racing to launch planned constellations of satellites that would bring nearly universal high-speed broadband coverage. OneWeb's 720-satellite constellation has received FCC approval and is slated to begin launching spacecraft next year — and much of the initial capacity reportedly already is sold. And SpaceX recently launched two prototype satellites for its planned 12,000-satellite constellation, and next year it plans to begin the launch of more than 4,000 satellites for its Starlink Internet service.
Meanwhile, Boeing and ViaSat have begun constructing satellites and ground network components for the ViASat-3 class of satellites. The first two birds, also expected in 2019, will cover the Americas and Europe, delivering more than twice the total combined network capacity of the approximately 400 commercial communications satellites in space today. These satellites will be able to deliver 100-megabit-per-second residential Internet service. This could be a real game changer.
Beyond broadband, satellite infrastructure is critical to many government operations that expand the bounds of science and commerce and keep our citizens safe.
The Federal government has historically been a partner and supporter of the satellite industry. Decades ago, U.S. policy paved the way for the development of a competitive and commercial satellite industry. We put private-sector innovation, technical excellence and freedom of communication at the forefront of our national policies.
Today, the federal government continues to rely on satellites and the commercial satellite industry.
- Federal agencies use satellites for voice and data communications, including for disaster recovery operations, through our own constellations, and by leasing space or buying data from commercial operators.
- Satellites provide key capabilities for Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We congratulate our colleagues and ULA for the successful launch earlier this month of NOAA’s new GOES-S satellite, which joins the already launched GOES-16 satellite to provide improved Earth observation capability for science and weather missions.
- The Global Positioning System is a federal satellite system that provides vital government navigation and timing functions serving far more non-government users than government users. The world as we know it today literally would not exist without these satellites.
- Satellites provide the long-range links for Unmanned Aviation Systems that support national security and facilitate wildfire control, among other functions. Self-driving cars will rely on satellites for navigation, software updates, and vehicle safety features.
- And much of today’s science — and a large proportion of space exploration — is completely reliant on satellites, including communications with the International Space Station and deep space operations that have brought us images of Pluto and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
The Commerce Department is invested in the health and success of all aspects of the satellite sector, from spacecraft design and manufacturing, to Earth station equipment standards and manufacturing.
Because of the ongoing partnership between government and industry in this sector, NTIA has a critical role in policy development for a significant portion of the satellite sector. I’d like to highlight some of the ways that NTIA helps support satellite operations, both directly, for government satellites, and indirectly, in helping to shape the overall policy environment within the United States and globally.
Most directly, NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management provides spectrum assignments and equipment certification for all space segment and ground equipment used by the Federal departments and agencies. This is significant; according to SIA, about three quarters of U.S. satellite manufacturing revenues came through U.S. government contracts.
We spend a lot of our time working to balance the growing commercial demand for spectrum with the spectrum-dependent missions of our federal agencies. We are developing and implementing spectrum management techniques that can advance opportunities for government users to share spectrum with other agencies and commercial users.
We’re able to do this in large part because of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, our research lab in Boulder, Colorado, where engineers are performing cutting-edge research and solving the most difficult spectrum challenges. Among its satellite-focused work, ITS is providing technical support to NOAA for its acquisition of an interference monitoring system to protect ground stations that receive data from weather satellites. And ITS has previously worked with NASA to coordinate how its satellites share spectrum with FAA radar systems.
We are also exploring what incentives would help federal agencies maximize their use of spectrum assignments and potentially open up sharing opportunities for other federal agencies and commercial operators.
We will soon see the implementation of this kind of approach when the Federal Communications Commission’s planned Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) rolls out over the next few years in the 3550-3700 MHz band. NTIA has separately identified the adjacent 3450-3550 MHz band as a candidate to study for potential commercial repurposing.
Congress has also provided some tools through its enactment of the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015, which provides funding from the Spectrum Relocation Fund for research into approaches that could lead to repurposing of federal spectrum for commercial uses. Funding has been provided to study the proposed SENSR project in the 1300-1350 MHz band, and DOD has plans to submit a Pipeline proposal to study the 3450-3550 MHz band.
In addition to research, I’m pleased to recognize important work that our Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC) and all they’ve done to reduce the regulations on agencies seeking certifications for small satellites. This should help to promote innovation in a growing area of the satellite industry, sparking continued efforts to make space accessible for non-traditional and new operators inside and outside government.
Also, NTIA continues to represent U.S. interests at the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization or ITSO, and we’re preparing for a June meeting here in Washington where 150 governments will discuss the future direction of ITSO. NTIA will be coordinating with Secretary Ross and the Administration to support policies that advance commercial space operations.
Through the ITU, NTIA’s responsibilities include registering the federal agencies’ satellite frequency assignments, and coordinating the Federal agencies’ preparations for major ITU global conferences. We are currently preparing for the Plenipotentiary Conference this fall and next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference, where several important issues involving non-geostationary orbit satellites, short-duration satellites and Earth exploration satellites will be discussed.
One of the key WRC-19 issues on the regulatory side involves discussions regarding potential benchmarks for “Bringing into Use” filings for the new wave of non-geostationary orbit mega-constellations planned for launch over the next decade or so. NTIA is participating in, and leading the federal agencies’ efforts on the preparatory discussions involving this and other satellite-related issues at WRC-19.
While we’re discussing the ITU, I’d like to call your attention to a great opportunity to help promote connectivity and telecommunications development around the world. Delegates to the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference will vote to elect a slate of officers to lead the Union for the next four years. For the first time in a generation, the United States has a candidate for one of these elected offices. Doreen Bogdan-Martin is running to become director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau.
I’m thrilled that Doreen, who used to work at NTIA, is our candidate for this post, which will place her at the head of the ITU’s entire Telecommunication Development Sector. I can’t think of anyone more qualified for this leadership position. While at NTIA, Doreen championed our pro-growth and pro-competition satellite policy, leading to the privatization of first Inmarsat, then Intelsat. If elected, Doreen would not only be the first American but also the first woman on the ITU’s elected executive team. Doreen is well-grounded in current U.S. space policy objectives, including commercial space and satellite activities. I urge you to do what you can to spread the word and support her election.
The deployment of broadband and wireless infrastructure is another major focus for NTIA. One specific initiative we are working on with our sister agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is the Global Cities Team Challenge. It brings together public and private parties to develop innovative solutions around broadband and wireless deployment. My staff has met with SIA to discuss your participation, particularly in what is called the “Rural and Agriculture SuperCluster,” and I encourage you to follow up with SIA on that.
The potential of space has always been vast, but history has shown that you can begin to realize that potential with vision and commitment. We are not afraid of thinking big.
We see the opportunity to work with this industry to expand the capabilities and coverage of telecommunications networks, and to deepen the experience of connectivity by bringing enriching and lifesaving applications to our fingertips. And we see the still-urgent need to broaden the reach of these networks to more people living in all parts of our nation.
As the manager for all federal spectrum use, including government satellite operations, NTIA will partner and collaborate with you. And as NTIA’s administrator, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce, my door is always open. Let’s work together.