European Commission paves the way for European mobile satellite services

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
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BRUSSELS — IP/09/770 — European consumers and businesses, particularly in rural areas, can expect to benefit from innovative wireless communication services after the European Commission selected two operators, Inmarsat Ventures Limited and Solaris Mobile Limited, to provide mobile satellite services across Europe. The services, such as high-speed internet access, mobile television and radio or emergency communications, will be provided over a specifically reserved spectrum. Both satellite operators demonstrated an advanced level of technical and commercial ability to provide these services.

“Mobile satellite services have huge potential: they can enable Europeans to access new communication services, particularly in rural and less populated regions. I therefore welcome that we have now cleared the way for the swift launch of these pan-European services,” said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. “This was possible thanks to the first pan-European selection procedure, developed in close cooperation with the European Parliament and the Member States. A Europe-wide market for mobile satellite services is now becoming a reality. I call on the Member States to take without any delay all the required follow up steps in order to allow a timely and proper launch of mobile satellite services.”

Mobile satellite services (MSS) will offer innovative wireless communications to millions of EU consumers and businesses all over Europe thanks to portable terminals carried by a person or mounted on a car or a ship. They can also help bridge the digital divide in the availability of high-speed internet coverage in Europe by reaching rural and less populated regions.

The selection of two mobile satellite operators for the EU by the Commission this week concludes the first EU selection procedure for satellite operators launched in August 2008 (IP/08/1250). Four operators were admitted to the selection phase in December 2008. With the assistance of independent experts the Commission analysed the technical and commercial development of these mobile satellite systems in close cooperation with national authorities.

Member States now have to ensure that Inmarsat Ventures Limited and Solaris Mobile Limited have the right to use the specific radio frequencies identified in the Commission’s decision and the right to operate their respective mobile satellite systems. These providers have to be authorised to use their satellite systems all over Europe for 18 years from the selection Decision. This is consistent with national practice in the sector and should allow investment to be recouped by satellite providers. Satellite systems are characterised by high upfront investment often over the hundreds of millions of euros. Commercial service should start within 24 months from this selection decision at the latest, subject to commitments to an earlier launch made by operators in their application.


On 22 August 2007 the European Commission proposed an EU decision for the selection procedure for MSS to be organised at the European level (IP/07/1243). Adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 30 June 2008, the decision established a single selection and authorisation process to ensure a coordinated introduction of MSS in the EU. The single selection procedure was launched by the European Commission on 7 August 2008 (IP/08/1250). Four companies had submitted an application by 7 October 2008. All four companies were admitted to the first selection phase in December 2008.

The Commission, with the assistance of independent external experts, evaluated whether the applicants demonstrated the required level of technical and commercial development of their satellite systems. Such assessment relied on the satisfactory completion of 5 milestones regarding for instance the construction of the satellites or their launch. Two companies, Inmarsat Ventures Limited and Solaris Mobile Limited, demonstrated the required level of technical and commercial development of their satellite systems. No second selection phase was required as the two candidates could be accommodated in the available spectrum. The selected applicants will be bound by the commitments that they have undertaken, including commitments made concerning consumer and competitive benefits and geographic coverage. Within 30 working days of the publication of the list of selected applicants they shall inform the Commission in case they do not intend to use the radio frequencies. The authorisation of the selected applicants at national level should be ensured as soon as possible and in accordance with the EC authorisation rules.

Indicative time line for the launch of mobile satellite services in Europe

Q3 2008                     Call for applications
Q4 2008                     Deadline for submitting an application
Q4 2008                     Commission Decision on admissibility
Q1-2 2009                   Assessment and selection
Q3-4 2009                   Authorisation at national level
From 2009/2010              First satellite launches and services
By May 2011 at the latest   Development and deployment completed

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