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Inmarsat/Arabsat will miss key launch date

Arabsat and Inmarsat have built a joint-venture satellite, but its launch date is in doubt and as a consequence the project will miss a European regulatory deadline, which requires that certain key frequencies on the satellite be brought into use by December 1st.

The impact could be considerable. The satellite, officially called Europasat/HellasSat-3, is carrying an important S-band payload to serve Inmarsat’s Europe Aviation Network (EAN). The European Commission has authorised a 300-site series of ground repeaters to serve the EAN which covers 28 nations of the EU plus Sweden and Norway. Deutsche Telekom is Inmarsat’s partner and is building the LTE ground repeater stations.

EAN is designed to provide high-speed broadband connectivity between aircraft passengers and the ground over Europe’s busy air-routes. The system, when launched, will be capable of handling more than 50 Gb/s of bandwidth via a series of multi-beams to the ground below.

The satellite is ready for launch but is waiting for SpaceX to find a launch slot. Sources at Inmarsat say that the actual launch might not happen until mid-2017.

Inmarsat holds its licence, itself part of a 30 MHz spectrum allocation. The other licence holder is Solaris Mobile of Dublin, Ireland. Solaris used to be owned by a joint-venture between SES and Eutelsat, but they sold their interest in Solaris to EchoStar of Colorado in 2013.

It is possible that the Inmarsat aspect could face a penalty, including potentially the cancellation of the licence. But reports suggest that the system will be deployed, albeit late.

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