FILE PHOTO - Elon Musk speaks at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington

INTERNATIONAL - Elon Musk’s ambitious plan to surround the Earth with thousands of internet-beaming satellites is encountering turbulence from regulators concerned about interference with competing systems.

SpaceX, the rocket start-up Musk runs, filed for permission for its constellation of refrigerator-sized satellites last year. Selling broadband from orbit is a key part of how SpaceX plans to make money beyond its original rocket-launching service.


But the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to deal the project a setback with a decision that could force power reductions on SpaceX satellites, and potentially limit the spectrum they can use, making them less effective. 

The regulator will in part defer to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the UN, on how these new satellite systems need to co-ordinate and share spectrum, according to a draft set of rules set for a vote yesterday.

The package is likely to pass as it is backed by FCC chairperson Ajit Pai, who leads the agency’s Republican majority. The FCC said it was establishing rules in response to proposals for a new generation of communications satellites.