NOAA GOES weather satellite communications at risk due to proposed FCC spectrum auction

http://esciencenews.com/files/images/201004162939460.jpg

GOES-13 weather satellite -artist rendition

The FCC (like many Federal agencies) has gone looking for available frequencies and money as part of this:

Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan, Recommendation 5.8, p.86 (FCC, 2010). The National Broadband Plan is available at

http://www.broadband.gov/plan/

The rub? They want to auction off a portion of the L-band spectrum used for satellite downlink communications from NOAA GOES satellites. This comes just as new satellites have been launched with new transponders using these frequencies. It’s madness.

To add insult to idiocy, the frequencies provide a much needed EMWIN service to Civil Defense and Emergency Managers in the USA, and many pacific islands use it as their only source of hurricane information. It’s chock full of public domain info that includes warnings, data, forecasts, and imagery. It was about to get a face lift to a new high speed data transponder (HRIT) using the same frequencies, already in orbit on GOES-R. Ground based receivers are in test mode, waiting for full deployment.

The beauty of this system is that is affordable to most anyone, using simple satellite equipment costing just a few hundred dollars linked into a PC with software.

http://www.big-z.com/images/5ftdish.jpg

The NOAA LRIT imagery system in another valuable service that will be in jeopardy by FCC this auction.

GOES-East Full Disk Image Viewed Using LRIT

GOES-EAST  full disk image viewed using LRIT.

GOES GVAR is another service that will be affected, on 1685.7 MHz This service is used by many universities and meteorological research operations.

http://www.dartcom.co.uk/products/gvar/gvar_ingester.jpg

If the FCC succeeds in auctioning off this spectrum for use as ground based broadband use, not only will the EMWIN and LRIT services from NOAA via GOES be disrupted, poorly designed transceivers might spill radio energy over into other transponder frequencies used by GOES communications, making for noise and signal dropout issues.

These frequencies have been designated for satellite communication use for a very long time, now all of the sudden, the FCC proposes an auction that will put their use in jeopardy. It is as if the FCC and NOAA don’t talk to one another.

I urge all interested parties that are NOAA GOES users to file comments with the FCC regarding ET Docket 10-123. A letter and email to your Senator(s) and Representative(s) should also be considered.

Colorado State University has already filed comments. You can read their comments at this FCC link:

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/comment_search/execute?proceeding=10-123

Please see the attached Public Notice from the FCC released on 6-4-2010.

“The National Broadband Plan recommends that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should make 500 megahertz of spectrum available for broadband use, including 300 megahertz between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz for mobile use in the next five years…NTIA has preliminarily identified the 1675-1710 MHz band for such use and is examining the impact on its incumbent federal users.”

Links to document on FCC site:

PDF version:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-10-1035A1.pdf

Text Version
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-10-1035A1.txt

The 1675-1710 MHz spectrum encompasses EMWIN satellite transmissions–as well as others that are components of our national meteorological and hydrological communications infrastructure. These resources are accessed directly by others beyond the federal government. Loss of them will be felt worldwide by the meteorological community.

The FCC comment period closes 6-28-2010.
Comments can be submitted here at the FCC Electronic Comments Filing System as full page documents, be sure to list proceeding number 10-123

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/display?z=7tiot

Please consider submitting a comment.

UPDATE: I have posted my submission to the FCC, and in the public interest I’m placing it here (FCC-Lband PDF) should anyone wish to read it.

32 thoughts on “NOAA GOES weather satellite communications at risk due to proposed FCC spectrum auction

  1. You can bet there will be only a big corporation that will win the bid to control this broadband frequencies. Then can ask whatever fee they want to users.

  2. you don’t have to worry about the satellites, they will get their radio frequencies.

    this is the way the corporatocracy works.

    we will sell them the bandwidth, then rent it back.

    it saves money, you see.

  3. Question for someone who understands antenna better than I do:

    Given the that ground receivers are highly-directional pointing at what is generally open-sky, would ground-based transmitters (either point-to-point or omni-directional) be able to cause serious disruption, even if on the same frequency?

    Note that this question should not be taken as tacit approval of the plan to auction that part of the spectrum.

  4. What the heck? Is the FCC not going to be happy until they’ve auctioned all frequencies for commercial use? I wish they’d quick mucking with things. Typical federal bureaucracy. But, I do admire the verbiage of this phrase…”including 300
    megahertz between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz for mobile use in the next five years.”…it almost makes sense. Sadly, I understand what they’re talking about.

  5. Having Ku, L, and C band sat com systems, I can tell you that terrestrial interference is a big problem already. If the signal is close enough, it will bounce into the dish, and if strong enough will disrupt the signal. Older analog systems were far more forgiving, they had higher power and receivers could manage better. New digital systems, especially receive only, can’t do perfect error correction (since there’s no request/reply). They also run at lower power. We have fits with NOAA port due to the low power and the digital signal and c band terrestrial interference from ground based microwave sources.

    Imagine a boatload of cheap Chinese broadband gadgets invading this spectrum in the neighborhood, mobile, with home based privacy. At least with fixed comm link systems that interfere in C band, we can plot the direction of sources and put up shielding. You can’t really show up at somebody’s house and ask them to turn off something.

    With mobile consumer systems, all bets are off.

  6. Privatizing information that people need. I doubt the services will go away. I suspect that the new owners will sell this information instead of allowing it to be in the public domain. Reminds me of Satellite dishes and receiver boxes. Used to be if you bought the equipment, the signal data stream was yours free. Now you have to buy the equipment AND pay rent each month for the data stream.

  7. It’s madness, it’s…government.

    It grows and grows and now we have arrived at the phase where one department is in the way of of the other.
    Eventually it will grow “Kaput”.

  8. PSU-EMS-Alum says: “…Given…that ground receivers are highly-directional…”

    Obviously, satellite based transmitters are NOT. End of story.

    Why are nothing but bad ideas coming from Washington these days?

  9. GOES GVAR is another service that will be affected, on 1685.7 MHz This service is used by many universities and meteorological research operations
    Are these satellites sending INCONVENIENT DATA?. Could this be a kind of data censorship or not?

  10. Who needs those pesky satellites if we have our MODELS!!!??
    J.H. (A.K.A. “Death trains”)

  11. So I’m all in favor of privatization, and I can see a need for this service.

    I would like to think that a private entity could be established to bid on this spectrum. I particular, I would think that large global corporations who also have need for such information, could/should/would contribute to the bidding.

    Using dedicate spread-spectrum technologies would make it still viable as a earth-sat-earth spectrum. To do so would require reaching agreement on how terrestial spreadspectrum technology for the bandwidth would be used. Today, HD radio shares frequency with standard AM/FM, there is no reason this has to be an either or proposition. Dedicate the bandwidth to the current application with the current modulation system, then require the bidders for the additional usage to use non-interferring technology.

    Eventually the GOES equipment will fail. What should be the plan for replacing it? If we’re really prudent, we can also have a replacement bird ready for deployment when that occurs. This requires that rather than just “b*tching”, people bend their brains to solving a solvable problem.

    Just my opinion.

  12. #
    #
    peterhodges says:
    June 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

    you don’t have to worry about the satellites, they will get their radio frequencies.

    this is the way the corporatocracy works.

    we will sell them the bandwidth, then rent it back.

    it saves money, you see.
    ____________________________________________________________________
    Yes, After all we have a hundred years of experience doing that. The USA gives the bankers money (prints it for them) and then borrows it and pays interest. It is a win win for the politicians and the big corporations and the only ones to lose are the little people who are there for the shearing by the wealthy.

    And of course the activists then blame it on “capitalism” when it is not. Corporatocracy is the right word.

  13. Oh and I forgot to mention we already have sold off our seaports, toll roads, bridges… to foreign investors. Any bets it is an international Corporation that buys it?

    “The Department of Homeland Security reports that up to 80% of our ports are operated by foreign companies. Foreigners are buying and operating US bridges and toll roads. Sale of the Birmingham Water Works to a French company was under consideration, but fortunately did not go through as foreign sales have in several US cities….” http://www.alabamaeagle.org/issues.asp?action=form&formID=2105&recordID=131006

  14. Ham radio operators have spent years fighting the FCC and public utilities over BPL, Broadband Over Power lines. You can imagine the interference possible by having each and every power line act as an antenna radiating signals at different frequencies. The FCC was taken to court by the ARRL, American Radio Relay League. The courts found that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedure Act. In other words, the FCC fudged the facts over interference.

  15. Isn’t this issue who will give the most money to the politicians for their crony capitalism basis? Who will give the cash flow … Is google in the bidding?

    Desperate.

    And who needs convenient access to weather satellites anyway.

  16. jorgekafkazar says:
    June 10, 2010 at 9:59 am

    PSU-EMS-Alum says: “…Given…that ground receivers are highly-directional…”

    Obviously, satellite based transmitters are NOT. End of story.

    …and the price of corn in china has gone up today.

    What does that have to do with my question? About as much as your response.

    The transmitter on the satellite cannot be affected by any other terrestrial transmissions on the same frequency. IIRC, the uplink for this product happens on a different frequency, so it would not be affected at all.

    Furthermore, my question was specifically directed to current receivers. If they are highly-directional, would signals from outside their radiation pattern negatively affect the signal they receive from the satellite.

    Again, I’m not saying this is a great idea but I’m curious as to what the actual interference would be.

  17. This is a shame. The Department of Commerce spent almost 500 million dollars each on GOES 13 and 14. Goes 13 was just placed into service this year. Goes 14 will go into service at the end of this year. Both satellites were designed to send EMWIN, LRIT and other data. I know this to be true because I met with some of the satellite contractors when the new EMWIN stream was being designed.

    Now the same government agency that built these satellites wants to simply turn the L-Band transponder off. What even makes matters worse — The next series of satellites, scheduled to replace 13 and 14, are being designed now – the GOES “R” series. The NASA engineers in charge of this project have already designed receivers for the L-Band transponders. They have already designed new transponders that will be even faster.

    This represents money already spent on a project already approved by the Department of Commerce / NOAA / NESDIS / National Weather Service. You have to wonder what happened to cause them to all of the sudden want to give up this frequency band to “broad band internet”?

    Do you hear the money….. It is talking somewhere….

    I know of several emergency management agencies that are using this satellite signal to set off their warning sirens. Take this away and replace it with the internet. When the sirens don’t go off —- take it up with God —- when we get blown away that will be out next stop. What is human life worth.

    Write to the Department of Commerce, NOAA and the National Weather Service. Be sure to cc to your Senator and Representative.

  18. Soon the FCC will want to auction the visible light spectrum. The company winning the bid will have us pay a fee every time we turn on a light or go out during daytime.

    Corporate Lobbying should be banned.

  19. Well why don’t they take care of unfinished business first. They kicked all the analog TV stations off the air; supposably because they wanted the VHF spectrum space for something else; like anti-bark dog collars or desert pupfish radio monitors or something like that.

    But we still have stations broadcasting on those frequencies; so I still have to have a humungous outdoor antenna to get the CH2-11 signals. If they would kick those guys all upt to UHf it would be grand.

  20. wsbriggs says:
    “Eventually the GOES equipment will fail.”

    But what is up there has been in service for a very short time (in satellite age). Some of it hasn’t even finished going through the testing stage. Millions of dollars was just spent on the new system, not to mention all of us that just spent hundreds and thousands of dollars buying new equipment to receive the new system. Satellites can go ten years before replacement. I installed my first EMWIN downlink in 2001 and none of it failed.

    wsbriggs also says:
    “HD radio shares frequency with standard AM/FM”

    Speaking as a radio broadcast engineer… the HD and analog signal for a particular station is transmitted from one source that controls the emissions of their own carrier with expensive equipment. All stations have their set frequency licensed by the FCC. HD is not transmitted by random low cost consumer devices which have fairly loose specifications. Satellite downlinks can’t control the guy next door or wandering user randomly splattering signal in their presence.

  21. I don’t see a big problem with this. Most of the time there would probably be little interference. The tiny number of people who actually have an antenna to receive this service might just have to shield their dish from interfering signals if there is any interference. Put it down in a small valley, or put up a metal fence around it or something. They could also use a bigger dish to get a higher signal to noise ratio. For the tiny number of users for whom this data is critical, they can do what it takes to get the signal. Users who just receive this data source for fun, can just get the data over the internet.

    On the other hand, you have many thousands, perhaps millions of people who could benefit from the services provided by the opening of this spectrum. Usually the value of such services exceeds the fees charged, by a wide margin. Also there is increased tax revenues for public use.

  22. Proof positive that this administration has less than no clue as to what they are doing.

    Time to fire up the Tesla coil experiments again.

  23. ‘These frequencies have been designated for satellite communication use for a very long time, now all of the sudden, the FCC proposes an auction that will put their use in jeopardy.’

    Actually in comp geek, err IT tech, and dare I say pirate, department this has been known for some time know. It’s in the IT-com field the money is thought to come from, and the pirates have known about it since the broadcaster-community went mental about the feds wanting to sell “their” white space in the ether for digital use.

    It’s a digital world. But cash is still king though, I mean as know, EU, I believe they fit four digital signals to each old analog signal or some such, which would mean they get get paid four times as much as they used to. Essentially they can keep raking in more money as time pass’ when they can fit more digital signals into the same freq.

    Should like NASA and NOAA already have known this?

  24. “”” Mindbuilder says:
    June 10, 2010 at 2:02 pm
    I don’t see a big problem with this. Most of the time there would probably be little interference. The tiny number of people who actually have an antenna to receive this service might just have to shield their dish from interfering signals if there is any interference. Put it down in a small valley, or put up a metal fence around it or something. They could also use a bigger dish to get a higher signal to noise ratio. For the tiny number of users for whom this data is critical, they can do what it takes to get the signal. Users who just receive this data source for fun, can just get the data over the internet.

    On the other hand, you have many thousands, perhaps millions of people who could benefit from the services provided by the opening of this spectrum. Usually the value of such services exceeds the fees charged, by a wide margin. Also there is increased tax revenues for public use. “””

    Where do you people come up with this drivel ?

    How does the Government stealing more tax revenues from the Private Sector make more funds available to the public sector.

    The removal of those funds from the Private Sector, means that private sector enterprise will not happen; and that is what fuels not only the private sector that creates it; but the public sector that feeds off the private sector.

    Don’t they teach elementary economics any more in schools; it is at least as solid a science as is ancient astrology; and modern climatology.

    Taxation schemes lower the economic efficiency of EVERY enterprise that employs that method of legal theft from the productive sector.

  25. When I worked for the Coast Guard the FCC auctioned off one of the VHF channels that the internationally mandated AIS (Automatic Information System) used for broadcasting. AIS is a marine information sharing system that allows vessels to get real time navigation information from other vessels operating in the same area. It is a SOLAS mandated system for most commercial vessels. The Coast Guard had to fight years of legal battles to get the frequency back.

  26. Gail Combs June 10, 2010 at 10:38 am :

    Oh and I forgot to mention we already have sold off our seaports, toll roads, bridges… to foreign investors. …

    What!? To someone OTHER THAN the Japanese?

    You _do_ remember in the 1980’s when Japanese investors purchased Pebble Beach and the Rockefeller Center among other … oh never mind; this is like addressing the dog on matters of physics …

    References:

    1) Japanese asset price bubble – 1986 to 1991

    2) JAPAN’S BUBBLE ECONOMY AND RECESSION

    We thought, at the time, that they were unstoppable too …

    .

  27. Everyone should take a good hard look at a map of the useful electromagnetic spectrum (for radio communications). Ham radio has chunks of bands from a wavelength of 160 m through 70 cm as well as 1.2 GHz and above. All of this fits in a thimble compared to the total spectrum. These gadget manufacturers want a 500 Mhz chunk out of multiple bands. That’s HUGE! At some point we need to stop and ask ourselves just how important it is that everybody have broadband access to the internet with a handheld device. Hell, I’m not allowed to have outside lights to light up my driveway to take my trash to the curb once a week because of local “light pollution” ordinances. I might be denying a neighbor a mile away of his perfectly black sky for 5 minutes. Now imagine the racket in the UHF radio spectrum if we exponentially increase the number of low power terrestrial gadgets.

    BPL was not the first really bad idea the FCC tried to foist on the public at the behest of commercial interests. This crap has gone on for years. A few decades ago the “high ground” of frequencies above 1.2 GHz were only of interest to researchers and the military. Now it’s prime real estate to commercial interests. Geez…even consumer wireless phones operate above 6 GHz these days! Satellites NEED this end of the spectrum because physics dictate so. Wireless gadget manufacturers covet this end of the spectrum for portability and convenience. Who wants an 8″ antenna sticking out of their iPhone? I say…tough!

  28. Are there any international considerations involved here? I can see that a single country like the USA can assign bandwith for nominated purposes of its own, but is there leakage that could affect canada and Mexico, or even larger areas?

    Is there not an International Convention?

    There are various Australian proposals, one to use 35 MHz of the 400-800 MHz band and another to use 98 MHz of the 2.3 GHz band, both for wireless internet of national coverage. I have no idea if these are at risk.

  29. L/S-band is used specifically to keep line-of-sight tracking problems to a minimum. I suppose what they could do, is what some of the other science observing birds do, and transmit their data UP (directionally) to commercial of government satellites in geosynchronous orbit, relaying any location in their downlink footprint. But it adds complexity.

    That is, if their antennae are steerable and situated opposite the camera/sensory aparatus, which I doubt. The diagrams show them 90 degrees to the camera payload on the ones that I can find.

  30. Interesting comments by all. This is a polarizing issue…no pun intended.
    I have to say I love the idea of additional spectrum available for consumer use. Access to the internet is important for our future. Our ability to stay ahead of foreign competition will depend on how smart our children are and not how many widgets they can manufacture in an hour. Better and faster communication enables this development.
    I am also excited about disruptive competition. Right now ATT & VZ charge us whatever they want for broadband or voice service. We need a disruptive carrier to come in and compete. This will lower prices for all consumers on broadband connectivity. The FCC will likely limit ATT & VZ on the quantity of spectrum they can bid for thus giving rise to innovation.
    Finally, I will acknowledge that this will certainly cause pain for some people. Without a doubt, the introduction of new devices in a reallocated band will result in years of interference mitigation. The best analogy is the SMR band. This interference continues to happen today. However, these issues can be overcome through technological advancement. Balancing the pros with the cons, this is the right way forward for our country’s future.

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