The satellite-phone business has always been a hard nut to crack, but companies providing the services to the US have just gotten a huge boost from the FCC after the commission ruled they could use their spectrum to provide ground-based communications as well. The rub is that the FCC isn't charging them, as opposed to the billions it earns in its auctions for cellular spectrum, and of course, some people aren't happy about it. This issue underlines the mess that is spectrum allocation policy. Certainly spectrum should be put to the best possible and most efficient use, but should it be done on such an inconsistent basis -- that is, giving satellite operators this valuable spectrum essentially for free, while charging other companies billions for other spectrum to run networks with similar purposes? Making things even more interesting is that at least one of the companies has no intentions to actually use the spectrum, beyond selling it to someone else -- despite its CEO talking about the amazing national security value of offering combined mobile/cellular service in Senate hearings. The company says it's held talks with DirecTV and Echostar, which are looking to team up on a wireless broadband network, potentially tipping their hand as to what they'll get for their billion dollars.
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