FCC tells Eutelsat that Intelsat already called dibs on U.S. orbital slot

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission rejected a Eutelsat application for a satellite that would use the same spectrum as one planned by Intelsat.

Eutelsat and Intelsat both told the FCC they wanted to field a new telecom satellite near 133 degrees west longitude to serve the U.S. market. Intelsat filed its application last May, some eight months ahead of Eutelsat, however.

Jose Albuquerque, chief of the FCC’s Satellite Division, told Eutelsat in a May 22 letter that the commission considers such applications on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Intelsat submitted an application for Galaxy-15R, a proposed Ku- and Ka-band satellite to be located at 133 degrees west. Eutelsat’s application requested the same frequencies for a planned satellite called Eutelsat-133WB that it would operate at 132.85 degrees west.

Albuquerque said the 0.15-degree separation was too close to prevent interference between the two satellites.

“We therefore dismiss Eutelsat’s petition for U.S. market access for EUTELSAT 133WB,” he wrote.

Eutelsat, which says its filings at the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union predate any filings supporting Intelsat’s Galaxy-15R, has not given up on securing the rights to the slot.

“We believe our company has the ITU priority to operate a potential satellite at this position, so we will continue to work to defend our interests and our rights at this position,” Eutelsat spokeswoman Marie-Sophie Ecuer told SpaceNews May 23.

Eceur said Eutelsat 133WB is “only a potential project among others” that Eutelsat is considering in the future. In its FCC filing, Eutelsat said it envisioned launching the satellite in 2021.

In a statement to SpaceNews, Intelsat said the FCC’s order “speaks for itself.”

“The Commission’s rules establish a first-come, first-served queue for licensing. Intelsat’s application was first in the queue, so once it was granted, Eutelsat’s could not be,” Intelsat said.

Intelsat is at the beginning of a replacement cycle for its Galaxy television broadcast satellites over North America. The Luxembourg- and Tysons Corner, Virginia-based operator purchased a satellite called Galaxy-30 from Orbital ATK in January. In its application, Intelsat said it plans to launch Intelsat-15R in 2022.