Eutelsat/ViaSat formally complain over Inmarsat

Two satellite operators are complaining officially to the European Union (EU) over the actions of a third satellite player.

Eutelsat and California-based ViaSat are grumbling about London-based Inmarsat, and saying that Inmarsat is violating the terms of its EU-granted licence to operate.

The complaint, reported in detail by trade magazine Space Intel Report, has been made just days ahead of Inmarsat’s European Aeronautical Network (EAN) S-band satellite launch when a Thales Alena-built satellite – itself a condominium satellite with Arabsat-owned HellasSat, and due to be launched by Arianespace at the end of the month.

This somewhat complex situation sees the Eutelsat/Viasat pair allege that Inmarsat’s ground network partner, Deutsche Telekom, has begun to deploy a network of ground-based towers to provide connectivity for the EAN system. This, says Eutelsat and ViaSat has the effect of turning a satellite licence into a terrestrial system, and well outside the original concept.

The Eutelsat/ViaSat duo argue that if the EU had intended to create a terrestrial system then it should have auctioned off the spectrum separately.

Panasonic Aviation, a major supplier of in-flight broadband connectivity, has joined the Eutelsat/ViaSat action.

Eutelsat’s CEO Rodolphe Belmer, speaking at the Paris Air Show, is quoted by Space Intel as saying that the EU license was tightly written, and was supposed to be a space-based system. “Now they are diverting the license, using it as a terrestrial frequency to produce WiFi in an air-to-ground system. This is a distortion of the rules, a misuse of the licence.”

ViaSat’s VP/COO Richard Baldridge is reported to be seeking to slap injunctions on individual EU member states to curtail Inmarsat’s activity.

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