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.