The Chinese government has warned authorities in Singapore of an impending conflict if U.S.-based ProtoStar Ltd. is permitted to launch its Singapore-registered satellite as planned without coordinating its broadcast frequencies with China, according to officials familiar with the matter.


Using an orbital position at
98.5-degrees east longitude
and broadcast frequencies registered to Singapore, San Francisco-based ProtoStar has scheduled the launch of ProtoStar-1 in June aboard an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket.


But several operators with satellites in that crowded area of the geostationary arc have protested, through their governments, to the Radiocommunication Bureau of the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
In their protests they complain that ProtoStar and Singapore have not conducted the often painstaking negotiations needed to coordinate their use of C- and Ku-band frequencies with their neighbors.

The Chinese Ministry of Information Industry, acting on behalf of
satellite operators registered by China, is seeking to pressure Singapore to force ProtoStar to complete frequency coordination before it begins operating its satellite.


based in San Francisco, ProtoStar-1 is using an orbital slot and frequencies registered to Singapore through the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore. ProtoStar received the license through its commercial relationship with Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel), Singapore’s telecommunications operator. The Singapore government thus is obliged to assure that its licensees complete coordination in accordance with ITU regulations.

Industry officials said Singapore has insisted that negotiations occur individually, between ProtoStar and the other operators operating nearby, including Chinasat of Beijing, AsiaSat of Hong Kong and Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications of the United Arab Emirates.


Mobile satellite operator Thuraya operates in L-band, but transmits in C-band for downlinks to its gateway Earth station. The Thuraya-3 satellite operates at the same orbital position, 98.5 degrees east, as that intended for ProtoStar-1. Coordinating the two satellites’ physical operations at such close proximity is not unusual among satellite operators, although geostationary-orbiting mobile communications satellites like Thuraya’s tend to move around in their allotted slot more than conventional satellites.


In any event, industry officials said, the two operators would need to work together closely to avoid mutual interference.


The Chinese government has been operating satellites at 98 degrees and 100.5 degrees east for years and has registered with the ITU for numerous spacecraft – Chinasat-3, Chinasat-22A, DFH-3A, Chinasat-44 and Chinasat-64.


Hong Kong-based Asiasat‘s Asiasat-2 and future Asiasat-5 satellites located at 100.5 degrees east also could be affected if negotiations are not completed with Protostar.


Asked to comment on the issue, Asiasat Chief Executive Peter Jackson said in a statement: “I am amazed that any administration, in this case Singapore, would allow ProtoStar to launch a satellite without completing the required international coordination with any of the neighboring satellites. This puts a whole new meaning to the term ‘rogue’ operator. I do wonder if ProtoStar customers appreciate they will suffer and the liability it places on Singapore.”

Jackson said Asiasat has met with ProtoStar on several occasions to discuss the issue but that it remains unresolved despite the fact that the ProtoStar-1 satellite’s launch is just weeks away.


Yuk Min Lim, deputy director for spectrum and numbering management at IDA Singapore, did not respond to e-mails and telephone messages left at his office. Hon Fai Chan, IDA Singapore’s manager of technical regulation, did not respond to e-mails and telephone messages.


In a response to Space News inquiries, ProtoStar
issued a statement April 15 saying that, for frequency coordination to succeed, the governments and operators involved must “participate constructively in the process and, among other things, exchange satellite payload performance data to identify, in good faith, potential instances of harmful interference and possible means and options to resolve such interference concerns.


“Over the past two years, ProtoStar has diligently proceeded with coordination of the ProtoStar-1 space network … with affected satellite operators and administrations within the adjacent orbital arc, consistent with … obligations under the ITU Radio Regulations. As these coordination proceedings are ongoing and involve both sovereign and commercial considerations, ProtoStar cannot comment further at this time.”


Until actual interference is encountered, the ITU has limited power to force the various parties to the negotiating table.