The Starlink service has nearly 3,000 satellites in low-earth orbit, launched by Musk's SpaceX rockets. The service can provide data with much less lag time than older satellites operating much farther above the earth.
The system offers the potential to provide internet service to people in remote areas around the world. It’s also proved its military value in Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion by allowing Ukrainian commanders to maintain secure communications with their units.
Now, however, a dispute over the rights to radio frequencies used to distribute data from Musk’s Starlink system has boiled over.
Dish Networks and RS Access, which is backed by Michael Dell’s private investment firm, are seeking to share spectrum SpaceX uses for its ground-based operations.
Musk called the companies’ representations to the Federal Communications Commission “super shady and unethical” in a tweet.
In more detailed comments to the FCC, SpaceX Senior Director of Satellite Policy David Goldman urged the commission to “investigate whether DISH and RS Access filed intentionally misleading reports.” Goldman added that Dish had acknowledged in 2019 that concurrent sharing of spectrum “is not viable in the 12 GHz Band.”
The dispute is part of a long-running regulatory action by the FCC.
The issue is likely to continue to grow in importance as Starlink faces efforts by other satellite communications companies to duplicate its offerings.
In particular, Amazon.com's project Kuiper won FCC approval for a network of more than 3,000 satellites in 2020. It recently announced plans for 83 launches to get its satellites into orbit over five years.