Friday, June 11, 2010

FCC Adopts Rules Governing WCS and Satellite Radio

The saga appears to be over. On May 20, 2010, the FCC issued its Report and Order and Second Report and Order on the rules governing the Wireless Communication Services (WCS) and the Rules and Policies for Satellite Radio. We noticed today that Sirius XM has withdraw its applications for repeaters. Presumably, this is because it now has (or will soon have) the coveted blanket authority to set up repeaters up to 12 KW. That means that within the parameters of the report and order, Sirius XM is now free to establish repeaters wherever it wants without the burden of having the FCC approve each application. It still has to fill out the applications and state the maximum number of repeaters, and the FCC still has the discretion to disallow the maximum number of repeaters, so the authority is not unlimited.

It does mean, however, that the WCS will be operating around the satellite radio band and there could be some interference. Neither side seems to be particularly happy, so the rules must be reasonably balanced between allowing WCS to operate their services and satellite radio to tolerate some interference.

The rules are to take effect 30 days after publication in the federal register.



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Thursday, June 10, 2010

And None for Liberty

On June 04, 2010, AfriSpace Debtor in Possession (aka WorldSpace) filed an application with the FCC to transfer its two geostationary satellites to Yazmi USA. Yazmi is wholly own by-you guess it-Noah A. Samara, the founder of WorldSpace. Samara was also the principle of Yenura, who entered into an asset purchase agreement with AfriSpace Debtor in Possession. That agreement terminated in September 2009. That is when Liberty came in an attempted to purchase the claims of the previous lenders. In the process, Liberty provided a bridge loan of $7.3 million so that WorldSpace could continue to operate. As reported earlier, Liberty terminated its agreement with WorldSpace in March 2010. WorldSpace then filed for an emergency motion of the debtors for an order to approve the de-orbiting of the satellites or abandoning the assets. The de-orbiting plan was approved by the courts with a preference for selling the assets.

WorldSpace proceeded to invite two bids, Yazmi and an unknown bidder (not likely Liberty). Yazmi secured the assets for $5.5 million. Liberty can't be too happy about this. Nevertheless, the courts approved the sale. If the FCC approves, Samara will continue his legacy.

So, WorldSpace (and Samara) hangs to broadcast another day. Samara must have a plan. It is unlikely he has the personal resources to keep funding WorldSpace and there probably aren't lenders standing in line. Who knows. Perhaps Sirius XM will step in.


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Friday, April 09, 2010

Sirius XM to Launch Another Geostationary Satellite

Sirius XM (aka Satellite CD Radio) applied for authority to launch another geostationary satellite (FM-6) to act as a backup to the previously launched geostationary satellite, FM-5. FM-5 , along with three NGO satellites, currently service the Sirius satellite radios. The XM side of the business has its own constellation.

The three NGO satellites were launched in 2000 and will be 12 years old when FM-6 becomes operational in 2012. The NGO satellites will be phased outs and FM-5 will be relocated to make the constellation nearly identical to the legacy XM constellation, allowing the integration of the two systems. The transmissions will be compatible with current of future generations of Sirius XM radios.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

And Liberty for None

Liberty Satellite Radio, that is. If WorldSpace thought Liberty Media was bluffing when it terminated negotiations, it may be thinking differently now. In December of 2009, Liberty Media filed for a consent to acquire two satellites from AfriSpace, the Debtor in Possession of the satellites used for the WorldSpace service in India. The name of the company would have been Liberty Satellite Radio. Today, April 08, 2010, Liberty Media withdrew its request from the International Bureau of the FCC, officially ending its quest for world domination.

AfriSpace has threatened to decommission its satellites. We have not yet been unable to find any evidence that it has made any filings with the FCC to do so. Liberty may be calling AfriSpace's bluff.

Is it over? Doubtful. It's valuable spectrum, and if it is returned to the FCC, it will likely be a long time before it is used. No one wants that to happen. Keep watching. The saga continues.

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FCC Proposes Rules to Minimize Interference between SDARS and WCS

In the biggest news event for satellite radio since the merger, the FCC has finally issued draft interference rules to limit interference between Satellite Digital Audio Service (SDARS, aka Satellite Radio) and the Wireless Communication Services (WCS). A bitter battle between the two services has ensued for years as the WCS providers have been trying to take advantage of the frequencies on either side of the satellite radio band.

The proposed rules will finally give clarity to the repeater issues. Sirius XM will finally get the coveted blanket authority to operate repeaters under a certain power level. It will also give SDARS a 2.5 MHz guardband to protect against interference to the satellite radio service.

The WCS providers will finally be able to make use of its valuable frequency. Unfortunately for SDARS, this frequency band once set aside for satellite radio will no longer be even a dream for satellite radio. Mobile internet users will benefit. Some SDARS repeaters may have to be altered or moved or decommissioned.

The saga has not ended quite yet. The FCC is requesting comments on the proposed rules. The comment period is short, only 2 weeks. Sirius XM has requested a 2 week extension. The WCS Coalition seems to be saying, "Let's get this over with". It is clearly not happy with the rules, but wants to move forward. It rightly accuses Sirius XM of delay tactics. No doubt, Sirius XM has legitimate reasons to fear interference from the WCS, but it could also have ulterior motives to make this frequency band worthless to all, except SDARS, of course. The Coalition believes Sirius XM is delaying because it will bring new competion:

"And, adoption of the new rules will subject Sirius XM to new competition from WCS-enabled mobile broadband that provides the public with mobile access to free services like Pandora, Slacker and a range of Internet radio services that largely duplicate, if not improve upon, Sirius XM’s offerings."

The statement clearly shows the animosity between the two services and the Coalition could not help be take a swipe at Sirius XM. In any case, Sirius XM will delay the rules to the bitter end. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The rules please no one, so it must be a good balance between the two services. We say, "Let's get it over with and move on, Sirius XM."

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sirius XM to Broadcast Earthquake Emergency Relief Channel in Haiti

Sirius XM requested and received a Special Temporary Authority to broadcast a Haiti emergency relief information channel. The channel will be broadcast in Haiti by the newly launched FM-5 geostationary satellite. The channel is available free of charge, no activation required. The broadcast will either be in Creole language from the Voice of American or from a local radio station that has lost its ability to broadcast.

Sirius is working with the State Department to deliver 500 Sirius XM radios, plus boomboxes capable of operating from batteries. This might be a great way to make good use of satellite radios and boom boxes that are no longer in use, if there were means to collect, deliver, and distribute the radios.

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