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SES/Eutelsat Orbital Slot Battle Escalates

Eutelsat Communications announced Tuesday that it filed a request for arbitration against SES with the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. Last week I reported on the battle between the two companies over the geostationary orbit slot at 28.5 degrees.

This week, Eutelsat said their request for arbitration “is grounded on a breach by SES of the Intersystem Coordination Agreement signed with Eutelsat in 1999, whose object is to coordinate Eutelsat’s and SES’s respective operations at several orbital positions, including 28.2 degrees East and 28.5 degrees East.”

Eutelsat said its position is that the agreement between SES and Media Broadcast, signed seven years ago, and only disclosed by SES in its Oct. 1, 2012 release announcing launch of the Astra 2F satellite, violates the terms agreed in the 1999 Intersystem Coordination Agreement, “specifically SES's commitment to respect Eutelsat's operations at 28.5 degrees East.

On Wednesday, the day following Eutelsat's filing, SES issued a Statement on Additional Satellite Spectrum at the 28.5 degrees East Orbital Position SES said it has been granted rights to use German Ku-band orbital frequencies at the 28.5 degrees east longitude orbital position effective from Oct. 4, 2013 onwards “pursuant to a 2005 agreement with German media service provider, Media Broadcast ('MB') (as successor to T-Systems Business Services). MB holds a license for these frequencies issued by the Bundesnetzagentur, the German regulator, on the basis of German filings that have priority under the rules of the ITU.”

SES said: “The agreement will give SES the right to use, on its fleet, 500 MHz of bandwidth at this orbital position adjacent to SES’s 28.2 degrees E in the frequency bands 11.45-11.70 GHz and 12.50-12.75 GHz in downlink and 14.00-14.50 GHz in uplink.” SES acknowledged Eutelsat is currently operating on these frequencies using the Eurobird-1/Eutelsat 28A satellite under its 1999 agreement with Deutsche Telekom AG (“DTAG”), the former license holder of these rights before it transferred its satellite activity to MB in 2002.

Regarding Eutelsat's proceedings claiming rights to these frequencies beyond Oct. 2013, SES stated: “SES strongly disagrees with Eutelsat’s position and will vigorously defend its right to use these frequencies from Oct. 4, 2013 on the basis, among other things, that Eutelsat’s rights to these frequencies will expire on Oct. 3, 2013, that nothing prevents SES from using these frequencies as of Oct. 4, 2013 and that the filings pursuant to which MB’s license for these frequencies was issued by the Bundesnetzagentur have priority under the rules of the ITU.”

The stakes are high for both companies in this battle and both SES and Eutelsat appear convinced they have rights to the 28.5 degree East Longitude orbital slot. It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out over the next year.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.