ViaSat opines on Inmarsat's S-band satellite for the European Aviation Network

Rick Baldridge, President and COO of ViaSat

Inmarsat recently launched Inmarsat S EAN for the European Aviation Network, which is on course for launch in the second half of 2017. ViaSat, Eutelsat and Panasonic have opposed Inmarsat's EAN on a number of points. Here, Rick Baldridge, President and COO of ViaSat, comments:

Question: What is the specific issue with Inmarsat’s actions?

Rick Baldridge: The intent for the spectrum was to be used for satellite services; however, Inmarsat has used the license to create a terrestrial-based European Aviation Network – what we believe is a misuse of a spectrum license granted to Inmarsat. Spectrum is an exclusive asset and unique resource. ViaSat believes Inmarsat violated Pan-European government authority by seeking to substitute its own judgement for that of the European authorities and, in effect, unilaterally re-write the original license it was granted under the ‘MSS Decision’. Allowing Inmarsat to keep this valuable spectrum resource for their European Aviation Network terrestrial service results in a massive public subsidy to one company; which gives Inmarsat a natural monopoly with major Pan-European business advantages based on unfair competition.

ViaSat believes Inmarsat’s actions will do long-term damage to free competition across Europe – especially in the in-flight Wi-Fi market. The lack of competition will trickle down to affect consumer wallets; choice and broadband experiences: where an absence of industry competition encourages consumer price gouging, a lack of innovation and technological advancement, and ultimately a substandard service for consumers.

Question: What objection(s) has ViaSat filed, and what have the results been?

Rick Baldridge: ViaSat brought an action to the European Commission’s General Court in Luxembourg on April 24, 2017: claiming that the European Commission should have acted to prevent national regulators from authorising the use of the 2GHz band for terrestrial air-to-ground purposes, instead of for a mobile satellite services “MSS” satellite network in accordance with EU law. The Commission has told ViaSat that:

  • 1) No decision has been taken by the commission on any MSS authorisation request

  • 2) national regulators must ensure that Inmarsat’s use of the 2 GHz band is complaint with the legal framework for use of the 2 GHz band for MSS

  • 3) Should milestones not be respected, those national authorities have to consider taking further enforcement action, in line with national and EU law

Question: What contact has ViaSat had with national regulators?

Rick Baldridge: ViaSat has already contacted a number of national regulators, including Ofcom in the UK and Arcep in France. A number of national regulators (NRAs) have already expressed the same types of concerns that ViaSat is raising. NRA concerns include:

  • The framework for MSS does not allow a scenario in which the complementary ground components (CGC) have a dominant role

  • Excessive use of CGCs and at the same time a potential increase in the data transmission capacity of the actual MSS system is not within the scope of the current regulatory framework

  • Competition aspects need to be considered

  • The proposed definition of Aero CGC (i.e. to support the EAN) is not in line with the definition of CGC in the EC decision and ECC decision

Question: Will this stop the Inmarsat service going live as scheduled?

Rick Baldridge: We expect that national regulators will apply, and enforce, the law, as the European Commission said they must do.

Question: What are ViaSat’s next steps?

Rick Baldridge: We will continue our approaches to the EC and national regulators to resolve the situation.

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