The satellite industry has undergone tremendous change over the last twenty-five years, and the people of HWG have been at the forefront at every stage along the way. The firm was founded by the first International Bureau Chief and his senior advisors, who established the part of the FCC with direct responsibility 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, and the terrestrial use of satellite spectrum as an Ancillary Terrestrial Component of the service. HWG has represented satellite clients in each relevant FCC rulemaking and World Radio Conference over the last 25 years.

Today, the industry is as exciting as ever as new technologies such as phased array antennas, advanced on-board digital processing, and precision spot beams enable services and other capabilities that could only be imagined before. In particular, the introduction of a new generation of NGSO satellites has helped to unlock the NGSO market. These include large mega-constellations designed to extend always-on broadband services to all corners of the globe, as well as much smaller systems of much smaller satellites that can map the Earth or provide connectivity to Internet of Things devices located anywhere in the world. Combined with a growing array of affordable launch vehicles, such developments have allowed more entrepreneurs to imagine and deploy an ever more diverse and capable range of satellite systems.

But satellite services are heavily regulated.  HWG has helped its clients to navigate a wide range of regulatory issues, from applying for FCC authorizations 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 (Team Telecom) to complete reviews expediently with minimal conditions and, where necessary, to negotiate security agreements and letters of assurance. 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 the 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.

Representative Matters

  • Advising the operator of a large NGSO constellation in licensing, policy, strategy, and compliance issues before the FCC and other regulatory agencies.
  • Advising a leading mobile satellite company in licensing and compliance matters.
  • Advising several new entrants in FCC licensing and market access issues relevant to NGSO systems.
  • For over a decade, acted as primary regulatory counsel for the nation’s largest Direct Broadcast Satellite operator and fastest growing satellite broadband operator in licensing and other matters before the FCC.
  • Advising a leading investment firm with respect to satellite-related regulatory proceedings at the FCC.
  • Providing advocacy for major satellite operators, industry associations and United States delegations before the ITU and the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (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.
  • Supported a major broadband satellite operator in market access through trade negotiations.
  • Assisted clients in raising trade barriers facing satellite operators in the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual reviews of unfair practices and during trade negotiations.
  • Interfaced with the State Department and industry association on behalf of a satellite client on modifications to the United Nations’ Committee on the Peace Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

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