Satellite operators SES and Avanti have long been at loggerheads over certain frequencies at the orbital spot of 31.5 degrees East. SES claimed it has rights certain frequencies at the position, which London-based Avanti also claim is theirs. The two operators also have satellites at the position.
Back in November 2012, the influential International Telecommunications Union and its Radio Regulations Board, asked SES and Avanti to “cooperate together” to resolve the squabble, but also ruled that SES by placing a satellite at the slot for a short two-week period in 2010 could not be considered as ‘bringing into use’ their ownership claim to the position and in particular its Ka-band frequencies.
Further complicating matters is that Avanti tried a similar technique in 2011, when it located Hylas-1 at the position for just 16 days. Avanti’s ‘rights’ to the slot expired in May 2011, and it wasn’t until Hylas-2 was launched in August 2011 that it occupied its slot (at 31 degrees East).
SES has a satellite at the 31.5 degrees East position (Astra 5B) and it has emerged that Avanti has leased a Ka-band steerable beam from SES (comprising some 3 GHz) for the remaining 13.5 years of the satellite. The beam can be focused on Europe, the Mid-East or Africa. As part of the deal Avanti has transferred to SES certain spectrum rights with a value of $25 million.
The deal can best be described as a ‘gap filler’ – as well as a perhaps concluding the spat between the two operators. Avanti had expected to tap into fresh capacity from its upcoming Hylas-3 launch. Hylas-3 is, in fact, more accurately known as EDRS-C (the European Data Relay Satellite/C) and part of a Public-Private-Partnership scheme and backed by the European Space Agency and Airbus Defence & Space. EDRS-C will, when launched, relay information and data between satellites.
The key words are ‘when launched’ and it is known that the satellite’s launch date has slipped by about a year and is not now expected in orbit much before 2017. Avanti has financed a Ka-band payload (capacity of 4 GHz) on the satellite, and last week said it would launch in “early 2017”.