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Inmarsat, Solaris win European S-band spectrum rights

15 мая 2009

Inmarsat Ventures and Solaris Mobile have finally been selected as the two operators to provide mobile satellite services in Europe using harmonized S-band frequencies across the 27 member states.

Both companies have been awarded 30 MHz (2x15MHz) of S-band radio spectrum, and will now be able to build a hybrid network using satellite capacity and terrestrial repeaters in order to provide MSS services such as mobile TV and mobile broadband access. They have the right to use the spectrum for 18 years.

The European Commission announced the decision, which came as little surprise, on Thursday. The other two companies short-listed for the single selection programme, ICO Global Communications and TerreStar, have generally been considered as less likely contenders for the spectrum rights as they have not revealed any details about how or when they would launch services. The European Commission had been seeking clear guidance on service launch plans.

Solaris Mobile, a joint venture between Eutelsat and SES Astra, is much further along with its plans, and intends to use an S-band payload on a satellite already launched by Eutelsat in April. However, a warning bell was sounded on Thursday after Solaris said in a brief statement that "in-orbit tests of the S-band payload on the W2A satellite launched on April 3 indicate an anomaly which requires further tests".

The company said it plans to carry out further analysis with prime contractor Thales Alenia in order to identify the cause of the anomaly and to "fully assess the extent of the S-band payload's capability to provide mobile satellite services to the European marketplace".

It added that it remains confident it will be able to meet the commitments made under the S-band allocation process, and said it is "evaluating a range of options to compensate for this situation and expects to make further announcements in due course". The company has so far spent €130 million on the satellite capacity.

However, it's not currently clear to what extent the company's launch plans will be affected. It has previously said that commercial services could be possible from June. Solaris Mobile has so far not responded to requests for further clarification on the matter.

Inmarsat has so far revealed little about its service launch plans other than to gather together partners including Thales Alenia Space for the EuropaSat satellite planned for the S-band programme, International Launch Services for the launch vehicle, and a number of suppliers of ground segment services and end user products.

The European Commission said in its statement that both Solaris Mobile and Inmarsat "demonstrated an advanced level of technical and commercial ability" to provide services such as "high-speed Internet access, mobile television and radio or emergency communications".

"Mobile satellite services have huge potential: they can enable Europeans to access new communication services, particularly in rural and less populated regions," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I therefore welcome that we have now cleared the way for the swift launch of these pan-European services…A Europe-wide market for mobile satellite services is now becoming a reality. I call on the Member States to take without any delay all the required follow up steps in order to allow a timely and proper launch of mobile satellite services."

The EC said member states now have "to ensure that Inmarsat Ventures and Solaris Mobile have the right to use the specific radio frequencies identified in the Commission's decision and the right to operate their respective mobile satellite systems.

"Commercial service should start within 24 months from this selection decision at the latest, subject to commitments to an earlier launch made by operators in their application," the Commission added. The selected companies have 30 days to inform the Commission if they do not intend to use the spectrum.

The European Commission originally proposed in August 2007 that the EU decision for the selection procedure for MSS should be organised at the European level. It launched the single selection programme a year later, and the four companies submitted their applications by 7 October 2008.

Источник: Total Telecom

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