Eutelsat loses access to 133W orbital slot

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rejected Eutelsat’s application to exploit the 133 degrees West orbit position over the USA, and has awarded rights to the slot to Intelsat.

The FCC says that Intelsat was the first operator to file an application [with the FCC] to use the position. Intelsat already has a smallish satellite (Galaxy 15) working at the location, and says it plans to place a more powerful craft into the position in 2022.

The news did little to help Eutelsat’s already damaged share price, which fell 3 per cent (€0.51c) during trading May 23rd. The fall, to €16.15 (and at one point to €15.97), means that Eutelsat’s share price has now tumbled more than 30 per cent in the past 12 months.

Eutelsat’s 133W application was based on the fact that it had an international regulatory precedence on the position (with the ITU, but not the FCC) and filed by France in 2014 well in advance of Intelsat’s similar filing (made on May 24 2017) with the FCC.  Eutelsat wanted to bring the position into use later this year with a temporary satellite.

The FCC denied Eutelsat’s application on May 22nd, saying: “The Commission’s rules establish a first-come, first-served ‘queue’ for the licensing of GSO-like [satellites].”

Eutelsat had proposed shifting Eutelsat 33C to the 133W slot (although actually operating from 132.85 degrees West so as to minimise interference), and then placing a new satellite into the position in 2021.

Eutelsat’s desired frequencies were 10.95-11.20 GHz, 11.45-11.7 GHz (space-to-Earth); and 13.75-14.0 GHz and 14.0-14.5 GHz (Earth-to-space).

Eutelsat, although declining to give any extended detail, says it will continue to pursue its plans adding that Eutelsat believed it has a priority filing with the ITU. Eutelsat also declined to say whether any frequency coordination discussions had taken place with Intelsat.

Equity analysts at Exane/BNPP say that the FCC refusal would not damage Eutelsat’s current financial guidance. “We do not expect consensus to change numbers on the back of [the] news. Note that Eutelsat has no major operations in the US.  This licensing request suggests the company might be keen to invest in a connectivity project in that market next decade. It has not been disclosed whether this project pertained to residential broadband (where Viasat and Echostar are the main players) or to another connectivity market segment (IoT, government, IFC, etc).”


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