Eutelsat is involved in a legal action against rival Inmarsat over Inmarsat’s use of ground-based repeaters for its proposed in-flight broadband and entertainment service over Europe.
On June 28th, the French Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) formally stayed the proceedings in Eutelsat’s appeal against a former decision to approve the use of the repeaters.
The former decision, as regards transmissions over France, was approved by ARCEP (the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes, the independent agency in charge of regulating telecommunications). That approval was granted back in February.
The move to pause the legal action comes about so that several questions regarding the decision can be answered. Eutelsat, in a statement, says, “The Conseil d’Etat refers several preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
“This subject was already brought before the Court of Justice in a ruling by the Brussels Court of Appeal in 2018. The issues referred to the Conseil d’Etat on behalf of Eutelsat confirm and support the questions raised by the Belgian court. This decision by the Conseil d’Etat confirms the uncertainties raised by Eutelsat as to whether the Arcep decision complies with European regulations regarding the conditions for operating a mobile satellite system, as Eutelsat considers that this system should be predominantly based on a satellite system, and not on terrestrial relay antennas.”
Most other European countries have approved the use of Inmarsat’s scheme.
An Inmarsat spokesperson said: “The decision comes as no surprise and we are pleased that the Conseil d’Etat has entirely rejected the overwhelming majority of the arguments presented. The Conseil d’Etat is the highest administrative Court in France and so the rejection of these arguments is final.
“The European Aviation Network (EAN) is already in operation with thousands of passengers experiencing one of the world’s best passenger Wi-Fi experiences on hundreds of flights every week. And the number of users continues to grow every day as more and more aircraft are equipped for EAN.
“The Conseil d’Etat is the court of last resort in France and, given the inherent complexity of the regulatory framework and pioneering technology involved in EAN, it is completely understandable that a national judge might seek additional comfort on a small number of technical questions from the ECJ. This was to be expected and is customary procedure given that the last word on the interpretation of EU law rests with the ECJ. The referral of these questions has no impact on our provision of EAN, in France or elsewhere.
“EAN is an outstanding technological innovation for Europe, which has taken years of hard work and commitment by Inmarsat, Deutsche Telekom and our other European technology partners to deliver. With EAN in service, airlines and passengers are able to judge for themselves.”