Cloud Native/NFV

GSMA spectrum chief heads to SpaceX

The executive in charge of the GSMA's spectrum-related regulatory activities, Brett Tarnutzer, has left the organization to join SpaceX.

"Working with fantastic international organizations ... like the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and so many fantastic national spectrum and telecommunications regulators strengthened my belief that if we work together, we can provide the benefits of communications to all who want it," Tarnutzer wrote on LinkedIn. "I am excited for a new challenge and a move back to Washington, DC, but I will take a bit of London and the GSMA with me. I'm excited to start my new job!"

A GSMA spokesperson told Light Reading the association is reviewing Tarnutzer's role but hasn't yet decided how to proceed following his departure.

Tarnutzer leaves behind a team of almost a dozen experts at the GSMA who oversee spectrum regulations around the globe. The GSMA is the world's leading trade association for the global wireless industry and hosts the massive MWC trade show every year in Barcelona.

Tarnutzer's move to SpaceX comes at an interesting time for the company. SpaceX's subsidiary Starlink is in the midst of rolling out commercial broadband Internet services in the US from its growing constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

But to expand services globally, SpaceX's Starlink will need to obtain regulatory approvals from spectrum agencies around the world.

Moreover, Starlink is also facing headwinds in its home market of the US. After months of debate on the topic, the FCC recently announced it will officially consider a proposal that would allow 5G operations in the 12GHz band that Starlink is partially using for its LEO Internet services. SpaceX – including its high-profile CEO Elon Musk – has spoken out against this proposal.

In a recent release, the FCC said it is only seeking comment on the topic and "draws no tentative conclusions." However, the agency said that it is "dedicated to ensuring that spectrum is put to its highest-value and most efficient use, while also protecting incumbent licensees, in order to make more spectrum available for next-generation services, such as 5G."

Thus, the 12GHz issue, as well as other spectrum issues facing SpaceX around the globe, sit squarely in Tarnutzer's wheelhouse given his experience at GSMA and, before that, as a top FCC official working in the agency's spectrum auction operation.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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