Major satellite squabble escalates

A dispute over satellite frequencies between Eutelsat and Arabsat over Iranian–claimed broadcasting rights has not been settled by the ITU, and is now to be presented to the global ITU conference of telecom authorities in January. The argument also concerns the wealthy Gulf state of Qatar.

The argument concerns the so-called Zohreh-2 ‘satellite’ which never existed but is claimed by Iran to have been temporarily ‘hosted’ as far as the Zohreh frequencies are concerned by Intelsat and Eutelsat, and with Intelsat and Eutelsat’s knowledge. ‘Not so’, insist Intelsat and Eutelsat, a denial echoed by the satellite operator’s US and French licensing administrators.

Zohreh-2’s frequencies are now handled by Arabsat using a satellite at 26 degrees East. However, Eutelsat which is especially affected because its Eurobird 2 craft orbits at 25.5 degrees East, is arguing that the Zohreh-2 frequencies were not used for some two years and thus have lapsed and should be cancelled as far as any priority to their use is concerned. This follows the normal ITU-backed policy of forcing satellite operators to bring frequencies into use, or else they lapse.

The Qataris are involved because they are financing (via ictQatar) a new Eurobird 2A satellite which will go to 25.5 degrees East in 2013 using the Zohreh frequencies.

The ITU’s Radio Regulations Board has reviewed the dilemma on three occasions over two years, first backing Iran in a highly contentious decision, then somewhat sitting on the fence and on November 4 recommending that the frequencies be divided between the protagonists.

“The Board noted that the analysis provided by the (sub-committee Radiocommunication Bureau) casts doubts as to the continuity of service of some of the satellite networks involved, which may lead to the deletion of the corresponding satellite network filings,” the summary communiqué states.  The ITU has called on the parties to meet in December in an attempt to sort out the impasse.

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