FCC has set aside $20.4 billion for its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Qualified bidders to get the funds to include Viasat, Hughes Network, and SpaceX. The purpose of the funds is to offer broadband subsidies.

FCC will award the funds through a reverse auction. The recipients will be telecom providers to help them offer voice and broadband internet services at a relatively low price. On the other hand, the beneficiaries will be rural areas and other parts of the United States that lack broadband services.

Viasat, SpaceX, and Hughes Network are just three among 386 telecom providers who were qualified bidders of the same. All the 386 qualifiers are at liberty to participate in a reverse auction scheduled on October 29 by RDOF. That’s when FCC will start accepting bids from interested parties.

The service will include providing voice and broadband internet services to six million homes as well as businesses. Their locations will be areas that are yet to start enjoying such services. The download speeds should not be below 25 megabits per second.

This program will also expand since a second phase is coming soon. In the second one, the beneficiaries will be communities with the services but with inadequate coverage. Another targeted group is the population that will miss out on the first bit.

Viasat chief officer in charge of global government affairs and regulatory John Janka told SpaceNews via an email that Viasat is happy to be on the list. The company is confident that it has what it takes to deliver the services.

According to satellite operators, the emphasis on low signal latency by RDOF rules disadvantaged them. It made it hard for them to win. There were doubts that the three would qualify. For instance, SpaceX relies on the Starlink constellation, and at the moment, it doesn’t provide commercial service. On the other hand, both Viasat and Hughes use geostationary satellites. That would make them disqualify based on over 100 milliseconds lag since they operate 36,000 km above the equator, resulting in a considerable signal lag.

On its defense, Mark Dankberg, Viasat CEO, said that the company plans to launch a low-Earth orbit constellation comprising 288 satellites. On the other hand, Hughes Network Systems president, Pradman Kaul, said that the company could offer LEO broadband since it has invested about $50 million in OneWeb.

As for SpaceX, it plans to deploy a lot of broadband satellites in the low Earth orbit. They will reduce signal travel times and boost network capacity. Consequently, the firm will comply with the FCC rules of fast speeds and low latency. However, it is yet to convince FCC that its latency will be less than or equal to the 100- millisecond standard. 

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