Facebook supports Elefante’s mission to get rulemaking on stratospheric platforms

Facebook is working with a range of partners to connect the unconnected and underconnected. (Pixabay)

Facebook is supporting a proposal by the Elefante Group and Lockheed Martin to get the FCC to modify its rules to enable the development of stratospheric services, including high-altitude platform stations (HAPS)—a proposal that some wireless carriers have opposed.

Facebook’s mission is to get people connected, and it’s got several initiatives underway to connect more people, including the Telecom Infra Project, so its support for another HAPS-like project isn’t exactly coming out of left field. Plus, when Facebook announced it was ending its Aquila HAPS endeavor earlier this year, it planned to continue working with other partners on HAPS connectivity and on policy issues to get more spectrum for HAPS.

Facebook told the FCC in an Aug. 15 filing (PDF) that it supports Elefante’s petition to initiate a rulemaking to propose modifying part of the FCC’s rules, but it requested that the rulemaking examine whether to modify applicable rules to enable stratospheric platforms in the full 24.25-27.5 GHz band, not the more narrow 25.25-27.5 GHz band that Elefante requested, as well as in the 38-39.5 GHz band that has been studied internationally for HAPS identification.

The FCC has already announced spectrum auctions in the 24 GHz band this year and in the 39 GHz band next year, and Facebook said it supports those auctions. Initiating a rulemaking for stratospheric platforms now, with those auctions in HAPS study bands imminent, would ensure that eventual spectrum winners and licensees will have the flexibility they need, according to the filing.

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In earlier comments on Elefante’s proposal, others compared its new stratospheric platform station to the existing HAPS category, and Elefante replied (PDF) that STRAPS are not identical to HAPS. Its system would use different spectrum than what’s being considered for HAPS to achieve the certain data throughput performance requirements and spectrum efficiency.

In Facebook’s filing, it noted that it was using the terms “high altitude” and “stratospheric” largely as synonyms and might reference Elefante’s platform and services as high-altitude or HAPS-like. At the ITU, HAPS refers to the platform in the stratosphere and is considered an application of a service, not a service itself, Facebook explained.

RELATED: Facebook ends ambitious Aquila program, will pursue partnerships instead

Facebook noted Elefante’s estimate that a high-altitude system may represent an 80% cost reduction over ground-based infrastructure and said it believes such a cost reduction merits exploration by the commission, particularly in light of its statutory mandate to make affordable communications available to all the people in the U.S.

“Given HAPS’ flexibility, capacity, large footprint, and lower-than-satellite latency, Facebook agrees with Elefante that HAPS backhaul will enable and complement 4G, 5G and IoT-enabling services and technologies,” the social media giant said.