Euro Radio Spectrum Fight

Something's got the European satellite industry "up in arms."

Gerry Oberst of Hogan & Hartson's Brussel's office tunes in to the regulatory and legal implications of a United Kingdom plan to take spectrum away from satellite radio in Europe. (Via Satellite, July 2006)

Gerry explains, the UK proposes "to auction spectrum in the 1452 to 1492 MHz band, the upper part of of which "has long been designated in Europe" for satellite radio service, satellite digital audio radio (S-DAB).

"The band in question is one of the last available for providing European-wide services and is the result of a long, hard fight in Europe between terrestrial radio services and S-DAB - a fight the satellite sector largely lost. Now, if the United Kingdom carves out that last remaining frequency range, the prospects of providing satellite radio into the country, and the economics of providing it across Europe, will be seriously damaged."

Gerry expects challenges to this under English law (the UK is bound by European Union's framework for electronic communications) as well as "recent European policy initiatives on spectrum auctions, trading and service neutrality..."

"It has been generally recognized that the international nature of satellite footprint and spectrum use limits the ability of satellite companies to participate in national auctions. Satellite operators have to bid in virtually all countries within their service area, while terrestrial operators can cherry pick in a limited area but still block satellite development over an entire continent. This is, in effect, what would happen with the Ofcom plan."
As Gerry notes, the "United Kingdom has traditionally been good to satellite interests." He warns that, "[t]aking spectrum away from satellite radio means this sector will have no future of contributing to the U.K. economy in the same way the industry has developed in the United States." Stay tuned.

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