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Intelsat “jammed” by Aussie satellite

Normally satellite operators go to huge lengths to ensure that adjacent spacecraft do not interfere with their near-neighbours. But Singapore Telecom-owned Optus, which operates over Australia, has caused major headaches for satellite giant Intelsat. According to local reports Optus is causing interference to users of Intelsat-19.

Optus-10 was launched last September and completed its in-orbit testing at the end of October 2014. It carries 24 Ku-band transponders from the 164 degrees East orbital position. The problem is that there are a number of other Intelsat satellites in near-proximity, and one of them, Intelsat-19 operates just 2 degrees of arc away from Optus-10 at 166 degrees East.  Intelsat-19 carries dedicated Ku-band beams that target all of Australia and New Zealand. Intelsat-19 has been in position since June 2012.

Optus and Intelsat have had a satellite co-ordination agreement in place since 2004. Reportedly a meeting took place last week and the result is that Optus has had to limit the power of its signals on some of its transponders in order to curb interference.

Optus, in a statement, said: “Optus understands that Intelsat is experiencing some level of interference.  We are working with Intelsat to assist them in resolving their interference issues, however there is work Intelsat are required to undertake to also assist in this process.”

Tony Ishak, the managing director of World Media International, which distributes foreign-language TV content via the Intelsat satellite, is quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald saying that its 30,000 customers were suffering service interruptions from the Optus craft.

The temporary solution, shak said, gave Intelsat’s customers time to change frequencies on their satellite dishes. “But this is a big ask,” he said. “It costs at least $200 to send someone out to realign the dish, then there is the logistics of making sure someone is home and the weather. It’s a headache”.

Ishak said he was now torn between changing the co-ordinates of his customers, and staying with Intelsat, or switching over to Optus, saying there was no guarantee realigning satellite dishes would stop future service interruptions.

Ishak said the satellite co-ordination agreement between the two companies had triggered a grey area.  “Intelsat and Optus obviously oppose each other but who’s to say that Intelsat won’t have another satellite in the airspace… and jam them to give them [Optus] a hard time?  It just shows that you really can’t pre-empt how technology is going to work down the track, and that’s what everyone is learning now.”

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