WRC-15 spectrum
Credit: SpaceNews/Lance H. Marburger

WASHINGTON – Three of the world’s four largest commercial satellite fleet operators on March 17 said they expected to surrender zero spectrum to mobile broadband operators at this year’s conference of global radio spectrum regulators.

Addressing the Satellite 2015 conference here, the chief executives of SES, Intelsat and Eutelsat each gave a flat “No” when asked whether spectrum now reserved for satellites in most places in the world would be subject to sharing under pressure from mobile broadband networks.

The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) set for November is scheduled to take up a demand by terrestrial operators that they be given access to certain portions of the C-band spectrum now the preserve of satellites.

Satellite operators say any concession effectively would push them out of the bands because the relatively weak satellite signals would be overwhelmed by the terrestrial broadcasts.

European governments and others have suggested that the lower part of C-band be made available for terrestrial broadband, leaving the upper half for satellite networks.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the United Nations agency that organizes the WRC meetings and regulates spectrum and orbital slots – has suggested that opening up the lower part of C-band to terrestrial broadband may be inevitable.

That is not what satellite fleet operators want to hear, which may explain their response to the question of whether a sharing of more spectrum might be a result of the WRC-15. Only Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg acknowledged that it could be one of the outcomes of the conference.

Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen, who as current president of the European Satellite Operators Association, has been perhaps the most vocal satellite industry official in arguing against terrestrial sharing, said many governments in Africa, for example, have no idea how dependent are many of their essential services on C-band.

In a statement suggesting the fistfight between terrestrial and satellite operators is likely to intensify in the runup to WRC-15, de Rosen said GSMA, the industry association representing mobile terrestrial network operators, has incorrectly portrayed Arab nations as backing more C-band spectrum for terrestrial networks.

It was not immediately clear what de Rosen was referring to. In recent weeks, the GSMA has announced several efforts to persuade Arab governments to support them at WRC-15. In February, GSMA said it joined with the South Asian, Middle Eastern and North African Council to urge Arab government support for more terrestrial spectrum for mobile broadband.

De Rosen said the ITU is apparently misinformed about the uses of C-band in developing nations.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.