Use of Foreign Satellite Navigation Signals
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules require licensing of non-federal receive-only equipment operating with foreign satellite systems, including receive-only earth stations operating with non-U.S. licensed radionavigation-satellite service (RNSS) satellites.
View the rules at eCFR.gov:
Waiver Process & Criteria
On March 15, 2011, the FCC issued a public notice regarding a licensing waiver process applicable to receivers of foreign RNSS signals. The notice includes a letter from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on behalf of the Executive Branch.View public notice
(1.5 MB PDF at FCC.gov)
The letter states that upon receipt of a request from a foreign government implementing a RNSS system, NTIA will consider recommending that the FCC grant a waiver of its licensing requirement if the NTIA determines, in consultation with other relevant Executive Branch agencies, that:
- granting the waiver is in the public interest;
- the system complies with United Nations Space Debris Mitigation guidlines;
- the grant of a waiver is consistent with U.S. international trade and other treaty obligations;
- the waiver request is limited to receive-only RNSS (which includes positioning) and standard time and frequency satellite services; and
- operation of the RNSS signals offered by the foreign RNSS system has been found compatible with U.S. government systems operating in the specified RNSS frequency bands.
The letter contemplates that NTIA will submit any recommendation for waiver to the FCC, and that the FCC would then review the request for compatibility with non-federal U.S.-licensed systems.
The FCC will assign a file number to any such recommendation and issue a public notice providing an opportunity for comment prior to FCC action on the request.
On January 29, 2015, the FCC adopted a report and order strengthening existing Enhanced 911 location accuracy rules to improve location determination for outdoor as well as indoor calls.View report and order
(600 KB PDF at FCC.gov)
The order sets timelines for carriers to provide vertical location information (e.g., building floor) for emergency calls in addition to horizontal coordinates or a dispatchable location and does not mandate use of any particular technology. GPS cannot do this alone, so carriers are preparing to test technologies that could augment it, including the combination of foreign satellite navigation signals with GPS in handsets.
Noting that the use of foreign satellite signals requires FCC authorization, the order states, "We do not decide the issue of operating with non-U.S. satellite signals in this proceeding."
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