Solaris To Provide Digital Radio in Italy

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Solaris Mobile Ltd. has concluded an agreement with an Italian media company to provide digital radio on a trial basis in Italy using Solaris’ in-orbit satellite and a network of ground-based signal amplifiers, Dublin-based Solaris announced July 12.

The agreement with Class Editori is Solaris’ first contract since its satellite, which has a defective antenna, was launched in April 2009. Solaris has been awarded an 18-year license to use the combined satellite and terrestrial network in Italy to broadcast to customers’ mobile radio receivers, whether in automobiles or personal handsets.

Solaris said the service would start in October, with initial deployment in Milan, Italy. “It is envisioned that a full commercial launch may take place in 2012” with deployment throughout Italy, Solaris said. Class Editori said in a statement that it is developing a pay-radio business model, similar to the satellite radio service in the United States.

Solaris is a joint venture between Europe’s two biggest satellite fleet operators, SES of Luxembourg and Eutelsat of Paris. The two shareholders have collected an insurance premium for a defect on the Solaris satellite’s large S-band antenna that was discovered as soon as it was deployed following the launch.

Neither Eutelsat nor SES has indicated whether they will be willing to invest in a replacement satellite, which could enable Solaris to meet the conditions of its European Union license.

Inmarsat of London, which is the other European S-band mobile satellite licensee, has not begun construction of its satellite, raising questions as to whether and when European Union authorities will modify the current regulatory framework.

ICO Global of Reston, Va., has filed suit in a European court to block the current licensing procedure, saying it too would like to offer such services.