The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an application by Elon Musk's SpaceX, allowing the aerospace company to provide broadband services using satellites in the U.S. and worldwide.
"With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States," the FCC said in a statement.
This marks the first time the FCC has allowed a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services through low-Earth orbit satellites.
"We appreciate the FCC's thorough review and approval of SpaceX's constellation license. Although we still have much to do with this complex undertaking, this is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected," Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX said in a statement.
SpaceX's proposed satellite system includes 4,425 satellites with frequencies in the Ka and Ku bands (a term that indicates range on the electromagnetic spectrum) to provide global Internet connectivity.
SpaceX will begin launching the constellation it dubbed "Starlink" in 2019. The system will be operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed.
Starlink will offer broadband speeds comparable to fiber optic networks.The satellites would offer new direct to consumer wireless connections, rather the present system's redistribution of signals, transforming a traditionally high-cost, low reliability service.
The FCC has within the past year approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat, which look to provide broadband services access the U.S. market. The FCC considers the satellite technology a promising route toward expanding internet access to remote and rural areas.
These approvals are the first of their kind. The FCC will continue to process similar requests.