A Plethora of Transmitters

Editors Note: This was submitted to The Union’s Other Voices in Mid March. After 30 days I withdrew the article. 

By Russell Steele

After a year-long battle with the Nevada City City Council, Verizon decided not to install a 4G LTE site in downtown Nevada City. Instead, they threatened to install small cell facilities on existing light and telephone poles. In retaliation, the Council wrote an ordinance to control small cell installation on existing poles. One of the purposes was to control the radio frequency (RF) output of mmWave devices (24GHz and 28 GHz) thought to be a health hazard by some members of the Council. These imposed RF limits are to be established in as yet to be published design guidelines.

OneWeb has launched the first six of 1,280 refrigerators sized satellite to initially provide Internet service from space in the 12–18 GHz spectrum. Under FCC rules all 1,280 must be launched in six years. This will ensure that multiple satellites are overhead when a rural user needs to surf the internet or send an email. According to an FCC filing, 750 satellites and user grounds stations will operate in the V Band 40.0-42.0 GHz and 48.2-50.5 GHz.
SpaceX has FCC approval to lunch 11,000 picnic cooler sized satellites at much lower altitudes, bringing them closer to the earth to provide high-speed broadband services to rural communities. Launches are scheduled to start later this year. They expect to have the first 4,424 satellites in multiple orbits by 2024.

SpaceX has requested the FCC for authorization to use 1 million laptops sized user ground terminals to communicate with StarLink low earth orbit satellites. The satellites and terminals will communicate over microwave frequency bands ( 10.7-12.7 GHz and 14.0-14.5 GHz. ) SpaceX has also requested authorization to operate future terminals in the V band (41-75GHz).

Telesat LEO launched a test satellite in 2018. The FCC has authorized Telesat to deploy up to 117 Ka-band (26.5-40GHz) communications satellites in low Earth orbit. Telesat has signaled its intentions to eventually add more satellites to the network depending on market demand.

These satellites will be operating in the mmWave frequency spectrum which has raised the concern of the City Council about health impacts. All of the satellite companies will be providing multiple satellites overhead to ensure fast connectivity. In one simulation, a ground terminal in London would be capable of seeing 60 satellites at once when the full constellation has been launched from one provider. With multiple providers, the number could be 3X60 over Nevada City at any moment in time.

Question: Will the City Council Design Guidelines also address the use of satellite ground terminals in the city limits?

Question: How will the City Council deal with the plethora of space-based microwave transmitters bathing the city in microwaves similar to those used by Verizon minicells?

Note: The signal from the satellites would be much weaker than those from ground-based Verizon minicells, depending on the distance from the minicell antenna. The signal power density depends on the frequency and the signal pass loss which is proportional to the square of the distance.  This is true of all microwave signals, regardless of the source. The free space path loss =

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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