Bermuda Seeks Compromise with Isle of Man Over Orbital Slots

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  Space News Business

Bermuda Seeks Compromise with Isle of Man Over Orbital Slots

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 28 October 2008
04:32 pm ET






PARIS — The government of
is open to a compromise with the
Isle of Man
, a fellow British tax haven also planning a satellite, that would allow the two to combine forces, according to Terry E. Lister,
Bermuda
‘s telecommunications minister. Lister said
would like to see the two jurisdictions co-own a satellite that could be placed at one of the two closely spaced orbital slots that neither government has been able to develop on their own.

Lister, who also is
‘s energy and e-commerce minister, said it makes no sense for
Bermuda
and the
Isle of Man
to compete to develop nearby orbital positions when neither one has been able to secure the commitment of a satellite operator.

has access to frequencies at the 96.2 degrees west position, while the
Isle of Man
has registered direct-broadcast television satellite frequencies at 96.5 degrees west.

“There are 32 channels available – 16 for each of us,” Lister said in an Oct. 16 interview. “That would be, in my view, a happy resolution to this as it would be preferable for each of us to have a bit less than we would like, rather than neither of us having anything.”

While both the Isle of ManBermudaare British dependencies that useBritain‘s Ofcom regulatory authority for frequency and orbital-slot registration, they also are competing to attract satellite operators and other space-based industry to their locales.

More recently, Bermuda protested that the Isle of Man’s announced intention to grant a satellite operating license at the 96.5-degree position would cause frequency interference to any satellite operated from Bermuda’s slot just three-tenths of one degree away on the geostationary arc.

Ofcomdismissed‘s protest and agreed to register the Isle of Man’s application. appealed toBritain‘s High Court, but the court sided with Ofcom in an August decision.

Lister said
now has taken its case to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) of
Geneva
, a United Nations affiliate that acts as international regulator for orbital positions and broadcast frequencies.

Lister said Ofcom, in making its decision used “a standard measuring tool [when assessing the likelihood of frequency interference] and we don’t think that is appropriate here. We are just 21 square miles and when you consider footprints and shadowing effects, we think there is in an issue. We have now gone back to the ITU, through Ofcom, to ask them to take another measure.”

“To be fair to Ofcom, they were attempting to use normal models,” Lister said. “What we are seeking from the ITU and from Ofcom now is a statement to the effect that: ‘
Bermuda
, we got your point.'” The Ofcom and British High Court rulings gave the
Isle of Man
a stronger commercial argument on behalf of its orbital slot. ManSat Ltd., a company that handles satellite registrations for the
Isle of Man
, is now actively seeking an operator to occupy the 96.5 degrees east position.

Telesat
of Canada, in which New York-based Loral Space and Communications is a major investor, has a long-standing reservation for the Isle of Man slot at 96.5 degrees east but has yet to indicate whether it intends to fill it.

“We do believe the dispute ended following the High Court decision,” ManSat Chief Executive Christopher Stott said Oct. 21. “It is our policy not to announce plans for a filing until the appropriate time. If Mr. Lister or someone from his department would like to contact us, our door is always open to any party for constructive dialogue.”

ManSat
is under pressure to conclude an agreement for its 96.5 degrees east position because its frequency reservation at the ITU runs out in June 2010.
Bermuda
‘s reservation for its slot does not expire until mid-2013.

If ManSat fills the slot before the deadline, it will have ITU priority, meaning that
Bermuda
would need to provide regulatory assurances that its efforts did not interfere with ManSat. ManSat would have fewer operating constraints with respect to
.

“As it stands now, we would be required to coordinate with them [
Isle of Man
],” Lister said. “That is why we fought tooth and nail over this issue. They now have until 2010 to place a system into service; that’s not a lot of time in the satellite business. Our position [at 96.2 degrees west] is quite a good slot, with a footprint that covers the whole of the
United States
. We have been talking with several operators about it.”

Lister conceded that
is less likely to find a taker for the slot unless its interference issues with the
Isle of Man
are resolved. “The fact is, you don’t go and put up a $200 million satellite unless you are certain you can operate it without interference, and that your business plan is solid,” he said.

Like the
Isle of Man
,
Bermuda
has had some success in attracting satellite operators. The world’s second-largest commercial fleet operator in terms of revenues, Intelsat of Washington, is legally headquartered in
Bermuda
, as is the start-up operator, ProtoStar Ltd. of
San Francisco
.

Lister said satellite telecommunications revenue in
Bermuda
remains modest but that the island is determined not to be outdone by other tax-friendly jurisdictions.

“In time, we expect it will grow,” Lister said of the satellite telecommunications presence in
and, more broadly, the space-technology sector. “We must grow it. If we don’t, we will lose out to the competition.”

Lister said
also is determined not to lose the land that once included the Cooper’s
Island
tracking station operated for NASA. While the tracking facility has been closed, Lister believes that ultimately it may be reopened for NASA or some other space agency. In the meantime, he said, his ministry is battling to keep the land from being developed by other government departments.