As a rallying cry, “No Change” may lack panache, but that is the slogan the satellite industry coalition is using to win over undecided WRC-07 delegates meeting in Geneva Oct. 22-Nov. 6 to decide who gets what radio spectrum.
In what may be the first time such a wide swatch of the space industry has come together to defend itself, about a dozen industry trade organizations, satellite-fleet operators and even the Arianespace launch-services provider have divided responsibility for wooing, wining and dining WRC-07 attendees.
“No Change” has been stamped onto lapel pins, after-dinner mints and Belgian chocolates to drive home the industry’s position that the satellite sector should retain exclusive rights to a portion of C-band now coveted by terrestrial wireless broadband operators.
“We have assembled a list of every delegation and our coalition is sharing responsibility for passing the ‘No Change’ message,” said David Hartshorn, secretary-general of the Global VSAT Forum, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of satellite technologies, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We’ve done a lot of work leading up to WRC-07 and we can be cautiously optimistic. But with these meetings, you never know until it’s over.”
Christopher McLaughlin, a spokesman for mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat of London, said Inmarsat has made common cause with Intelsat, SES, Asiasat and other fixed satellite services operators because the satellite sector as a whole is facing an opposition that carries more weight with many governments.
“If you are talking about a Nokia, or an Ericsson, or cellular network operators, we satellite guys don’t play in the same league,” McLaughlin said. “And they have been lobbying quite hard on this. Preserving interference-free access to C-band is a matter of concern to Inmarsat.”
Access Partnership Ltd., a London telecommunications consultancy, was hired by SES and other members of the satellite coalition to organize the industry’s approach to WRC-07.
Gregory Francis, Access Partnership’s managing director, said the satellite C-band coalition has organized a series of lunchtime presentations and dinners for different regional delegations to drive home the “No Change” message with written and video presentations.
Francis conceded that the effort might seem modest compared to efforts at past WRC meetings by individual companies seeking global spectrum authorizations. In the mid-1990s, the Motorola-backed Iridium satellite-telephone project and the Teledesic global broadband satellite constellation backed by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw both spent lavishly at WRC conferences.
“We thought that kind of display could be seen as vulgar at the end of the day, so we are doing things more modestly,” Francis said. “You have to remember that for some of these delegates from poor nations, coming to Geneva for WRC-07 and paying a night’s hotel is as expensive as paying their kid’s school fees for a month.”
While several satellite manufacturers have signaled their support for the coalition, none of them has been active in backing the coalition like the Arianespace commercial launch consortium of Evry, France.
“A threat to C-band is a threat to the satellite industry and thus a threat to our business,” an Arianespace official said. “It is perfectly logical that we should be a part of this, even if it’s a new venue for us.”