PARIS — The global regulator of satellite orbital slots and broadcast frequencies on March 26 asked Iran to track down the source of intentional jamming of Eutelsat satellite signals that carry news broadcasts into Iran.
In a delicately worded statement apparently designed not to antagonize Iranian authorities, the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said it accepted the findings of the French National Frequencies Agency concluding that the interference to Eutelsat signals, particularly those from the BBC reporting on Iranian politics, is coming from Iranian territory.
The French agency, on behalf of Paris-based Eutelsat, has written to Iran on multiple occasions in the past year asking that the interference cease. The ITU Radio Regulations Board also contacted Iran, whose administration responded that it did not know the source of the signal jamming, which has interfered with broadcasts from Eutelsat satellites at four different orbital slots.
The BBC has moved its BBC Persian news broadcasts from one satellite to another in an attempt to find an orbital slot that permits broadcasts into Iran but makes it difficult for Iran-based jammers to interfere with the signal.
The ITU Radio Regulations Board concluded that “the interfering signals appear to be of a nature” that is forbidden under ITU rules and is originating in Iran “based on the measurements provided by the administration of France, and having confidence in the measurement techniques.”
The ITU, a United Nations affiliate, has little power to enforce its rulings. It depends on member nations to respect the regulations as a matter of good faith in the general interest of maximizing the use of the radio spectrum and satellite orbital positions.
The ITU said it “urged the administration of Iran to continue its effort in locating the source of interference and to eliminate it as a matter of the highest priority.” It said it has asked the French administration and its own Radiocommunication Bureau “to assist the administration of Iran in identifying the source of the interference.”
Eutelsat has been telling French authorities for months about the interference, and the 27-nation European Union has urged Iran to stop it.
Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen, who assumed his post less than a year ago, told the Satellite 2010 conference in Washington March 16 that he is “not overly impressed by what regulators have done so far.”
“How can they put more teeth into the effort, where we don’t have the typical United Nations approach to life, where you send an ambassador to say, ‘You really shouldn’t be doing this?’” de Rosen asked.
“Welcome to the industry,” responded Daniel S. Goldberg, chief executive of satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada and a satellite communications veteran. “Short of a pre-emptive strike,” Goldberg said, persuasion and negotiations are the only tools available to prevent frequency interference.