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A serious dispute has arisen between SES and Eutelsat over the UK’s all-important 28.2/28.5 degrees East orbital slots, which beam signals to the UK and Ireland. BSkyB and channels such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 broadcast using satellites from these positions.
On September 28, SES launched a new satellite, Astra 2F, into orbit and it is now known that SES intends taking over 500 megahertz of spectrum, starting a year from now in October 2013 at 28.2 degrees East.
Eutelsat transmits from 28.5 degrees East, almost immediately alongside the SES fleet of satellites.
SES is arguing that it negotiated the rights to the claimed spectrum back in 2005. Eutelsat has been operating the spectrum rights up until now based on an agreement it had with Deutsche Telekom (who owned rights to the frequencies). Deutsche Telekom – in essence – assigned the rights to a Bonn, Germany-based satellite services company called Media Broadcast, and it is the SES agreement signed in 2005 with Media Broadcast that SES is now calling into play.
It is reported that Media Broadcast notified Eutelsat last year that it was ending its lease on the Eutelsat satellite. Eutelsat is arguing that its own agreement with Deutsche Telekom had no time limit, and that the rights to this spectrum cannot be transferred. It is also calling on various international bodies to arbitrate over the dispute.
SES, for its part, says there is no dispute to arbitrate over, and that it holds the absolute rights to the spectrum.
The spectrum in total is the equivalent to 15 transponders, and capable of handling 140-180 different TV channels.