Eutelsat Cuts Satellite Deal with Ukraine, Buys Access to Brazilian Slot
WASHINGTON — Even as it struggles to resolve orbital-access issues at 26 degrees east longitude with Saudi Arabia and Iran, satellite fleet operatorhas reached an agreement with Ukraine to develop the 48 degrees east slot and is confident of finding an equitable compromise on a separate Iranian satellite system at 34 degrees east, Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen said.
The Paris-based operator is expanding westward as well. Eutelsat has won an auction sponsored by Brazil’s Anatel telecommunications authority for the rights to a Brazilian orbital position.
Industry officials said the Brazilian slot is at 65 degrees west and that Eutelsat plans to develop it for Ka-band broadband applications. In a briefing with reporters March 14 here at the Satellite 2012 conference, de Rosen declined to discuss the auction beyond saying Eutelsat won it for “quite an attractive price.”
“We are not ready, today, to tell you how we plan to use this,” de Rosen said of the Brazilian slot.
Eutelsat, which is the world’s third-biggest satellite fleet operator measured by revenue, had been negotiating with the government of Ukraine over access to frequencies around 36 degrees east. Ukraine had proposed to put its first telecommunications satellite, called Lybid, near that position.
Eutelsat protested that its two spacecraft already at 36 degrees east had regulatory priority. Ukraine’s national space agency, which is managing the Lybid project, was forced to suspend its $254 million contract with MDA Corp. of Canada for the satellite’s development.
MDA Corp. officials told investors Feb. 28 that the Lybid contract, which was financed in part by Canada’s export-credit agency, Export Development Canada, is now back on track following a resolution of the frequency coordination issues.
De Rosen said Eutelsat and Ukraine will cooperate in the development of the 48 degrees east orbital position. Eutelsat has two spacecraft at that slot now, one in inclined orbit and nearing retirement, the other a small satellite that suffered a partial failure of its power system and has never generated much revenue for Eutelsat.
“We learned one day that Ukraine had this satellite program and that they had underestimated that the program might cause problems for us at 36 degrees,” de Rosen said. “It could have become a lose-lose situation. We have now discussed with them and it will be a win-win situation.”
Eutelsat Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Wallace said during the briefing that the compromise with Ukraine “will ensure that what we do with Russia at 36 degrees will be clear for Russia and for the large Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, and it gives extra momentum to the development of 48 degrees.”
Eutelsat’s issue with Iran over the 34 degrees east slot, meanwhile, stems from the recent decision by international frequency regulators attending the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) to reinstate Iran’s Zohreh-1 satellite system into a global registry of approved satellite networks.
In what several WRC delegates admitted was a contradiction, the recently concluded meeting also endorsed an earlier decision by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to expel Zohreh-1 from the list because it had missed deadlines for starting service.
If Iran places a Zohreh-1 satellite at its designed slot at 34 degrees east, it will be close enough to a Eutelsat spacecraft to force the two sides into close coordination discussions to avoid frequency interference.
“We believe that the WRC decision was more a political position than one based on technical aspects,” de Rosen said. “We will now need the help of the ITU to make sure that the presence of an Iranian satellite there does not cause interference. I believe that, with an enormous amount of goodwill on all sides, we can achieve this result.”