Satellite + Commercial Space
The satellite and commercial space industry has undergone tremendous change over the last several decades, and HWG has been at the forefront at every stage along the way.
The firm was founded by the first International Bureau Chief and his senior advisors, the part of the FCC responsible for licensing and regulating commercial satellites in the United States. Over the years, HWG has represented a large array of satellite operators on a panoply of licensing, regulatory policy, spectrum, compliance, and transactional matters. We have developed innovative regulatory concepts for our satellite clients, such as the original regulatory framework for non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite systems, reverse-band operations for Ka-band direct-to-home video, the terrestrial use of satellite spectrum as an Ancillary Terrestrial Component of the service and vice-versa— the use of terrestrial spectrum by satellite systems. We are advising satellite clients on direct-to-device regulation. HWG has represented satellite clients in each relevant FCC rulemaking and World Radio Conference over the last 30 years.
Today, the industry is more exciting than ever as new technologies such as phased array antennas, advanced on-board digital processing, spectrum-agile transmitters, and precision spot beams enable services and other capabilities that could only be imagined before. HWG remains at the leading edge of these developments, advising innovators exploring new technologies and business models. HWG has worked closely with companies developing a wide range of new technologies and business models in outer space, including NGSO mega-constellations, commercial launch services, next-generation earth-imaging technologies, and virtualized satellite infrastructure provided through the cloud.
HWG has helped its clients to navigate a wide range of regulatory issues, from applying for FCC authorizations—some of which the FCC’s rules did not contemplate— to seeking new spectrum allocations to day-to-day compliance advice. The firm is also experienced in providing strategic advice and guidance to companies looking to provide satellite-based communications services or to invest in or acquire a U.S.-licensed satellite operator. HWG regularly represents satellite space station and earth station operators, carriers, and investors to obtain FCC consents for mergers and acquisitions, and the firm has unparalleled experience in national security reviews conducted by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice to complete reviews expeditiously with minimal conditions and, where necessary, to negotiate security agreements. The firm has extensive experience representing U.S. sellers and foreign purchasers of defense, critical infrastructure and critical technology businesses to obtain investment clearances from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) under the Defense Production Act and Foreign Investment and National Security Act. And HWG has long represented satellite operators and equipment manufacturers in complying with U.S. export controls and economic sanctions.
Moreover, because satellite operations inherently cross-national borders regulatory issues are often international. HWG regularly represents clients in critical multilateral organization meetings such as in the International Telecommunication Union whose World Radiocommunication Conferences determine international spectrum allocation, policy, and use, as well as the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) for regional (Western Hemisphere) spectrum allocation, management, and technical matters. HWG also represents clients before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the international organizations responsible for administering aviation and maritime safety communication, respectively, and determining communication provider participation.
From concept to commercial operation, HWG has the background and skills required to advise satellite operators, manufacturers, service vendors, and launch providers as they face a rapidly changing tapestry of regulatory, commercial, and technological issues.
- Advising clients on potential licensing models and rules implementation for satellite direct-to-device services.
- Representing Eutelsat before the FCC and the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector (“Team Telecom”) in its merger with OneWeb.
- Representing Apax Partners and Marlink before the FCC and Team Telecom in the sale of Marlink to Providence Equity Partners, and representing Apax Partners in its earlier acquisition of Marlink from Airbus.
- Representing Marlink before the FCC and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) in its acquisition of ITC Global, Inc.
- Representing U.S. teleport operators in negotiating commercial agreements with satellite network operators and carriers.
- Representing satellite operators and customers in the FCC’s licensing streamlining proceeding.
- Advising the operator of an NGSO mega-constellation in licensing, policy, strategy, and compliance issues before the FCC and other regulatory agencies.
- Advising a major cloud services provider to develop a regulatory strategy for offering virtualized satellite communications services.
- Representing a new entrant earth-imaging company to develop a comprehensive licensing strategy and obtain new satellite authorizations under the FCC’s streamlined small-satellite rules.
- Interfacing with the State Department and industry association on behalf of a satellite client on modifications to the United Nations’ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
- Advising a leading mobile satellite company in licensing and compliance matters.
- Assisting earth and space-station operators in coordinating their systems with the U.S. military and other U.S. federal agencies.
- Advising several new entrants in FCC licensing and market access issues relevant to NGSO systems.
- Acting as primary regulatory counsel for the nation’s largest Direct Broadcast Satellite operator in licensing, rulemaking, and other matters before the FCC.
- Advising a leading investment firm with respect to satellite-related regulatory proceedings at the FCC.
- Representing a foreign satellite operator in connection with the FCC’s recent reallocation of C-band spectrum.
- Providing advocacy for major satellite operators, industry associations and United States delegations before the ITU and CITEL on spectrum planning and management, radio service planning, orbit access, and technical recommendations for global regulation and for the CITEL region (Western Hemisphere).
- Representing a major satellite radio company with respect to an FCC investigation of compliance with FCC rules.
- Supporting a major broadband satellite operator in market access through trade negotiations.
- Assisting clients in raising trade barriers facing satellite operators in the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual reviews of unfair practices and during trade negotiations.