Inmarsat and Eutelsat in-flight battle

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ARCEP, back in February, gave its approval to Inmarsat for the London-based satellite operator to deploy its ground-based connectivity for Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network. The French regulator joins Ofcom and many other individual European nations in approving the system which will offer Internet access to and from aircraft using Inmarsat as well as the ground-based repeater system.

Inmarsat has used Deutsche Telekom (and Nokia) to complete the 300 or so ground stations which have been operational since the end of February, and ready for full service implementation.

But Eutelsat is not happy. Despite mounting a joint objection to the Inmarsat scheme with California-based Viasat, which did not gain traction with the regulators, it has now initiated an action with the French Council of State.

The Eutelsat statement says: “On 25 April 2018 Eutelsat initiated proceedings with the Council of State contesting the grounds for Arcep’s decision on 22 February 2018 to authorise Inmarsat to operate terrestrial relay antennas to launch their in-flight internet offer on the French territory. Eutelsat contests the legality of this decision both in terms of substance and form.”

“Eutelsat firmly believes that the public interest is not served by this decision since the service offered by Inmarsat to airlines in no way contributes to combat the digital divide in France or more broadly in Europe. Yet this was the regulatory goal underpinning the decision to grant the license to Inmarsat. Furthermore, this system is mainly based on terrestrial relay antennas and this is contrary to the conditions for a mobile satellite-based system such as provided for by European regulations.”

“Elsewhere in Europe the recent ruling by the Brussels appeal court confirms the findings of Eutelsat’s own analysis,” says Eutelsat. “Indeed, on 14 March last, the Brussels appeal court cancelled the authorisation granted by Belgian telecom regulator IBPT to Inmarsat for its in-flight internet offer. This ruling confirms our interpretation of European regulations.”


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