LONDON American satellite operator ICO Global Communications is to challenge the European Commission's decision to award the licenses for S-band mobile satellite services across EU states to Dublin, Ireland-based Solaris Mobile and the London headquartered Inmarsat group.
Inmarsat and Solaris which is a joint venture between France's Eutelsat and SES Astra of Luxembourg were earlier this week awarded 18-year rights to run services on the S-band radio spectrum across 27 European countries.
U.S. satellite companies ICO and TerraStar also bid for the licences but were not selected.
"ICO has spent years clearing the S-band worldwide, has an operational satellite using this frequency band and is registered in the International Telecommunications Union Master International Frequency Register (MIFR).
"We believe the just-concluded EU process jeopardizes years of international cooperation and coordination that has governed satellite communications worldwide," commented Michael Corkery, acting chief executive officer of ICO.
Corkery stressed "ICO will continue assessing its options in defending its international legal rights."
The EC's decision a huge boost for the delivery by satellite of mobile TV and broadband access in Europe has been long in coming and the awarding of the licenses had already been mired in controversy, which is now set to continue.
The European Commission took the controversial decision to award the licenses to use spectrum for the first time on a pan-European basis, rather than country by country, making these licenses potentially highly valuable.
ICO (Reston, VA) said it is challenging the process, having initiated legal proceedings in September 2008 in the European Court of First Instance seeking the annulment of Decision No. 626/2008/EC of the European Parliament. The satellite operator contends that the decision is illegal and should be annulled.
It says that as the legal proceedings had not been completed by the October 2008 deadline to submit applications to the EC to provide MSS, the company's subsidiary, ICO Satellite Limited filed an application with the EC, without prejudice, pending the outcome of the proceedings in the European Court of First Instance.
Plans to launch satellite based mobile TV and wireless broadband services already got off to an inauspicious start as Solaris also admitted on Thursday (May 14) it had discovered a fault on its recently launched satellite, which could prevent new services from running at full capacity. Solaris contends, however, this is a temporary hiccup.
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