Solaris Mobile S-Band mobile satellite services threatened by ‘anomaly’ on Eutelsat W2A bird

There’s never a dull moment in the continuing European S-Band saga!

Solaris Mobile – the Astra/Eutelsat JV hotly tipped to share the S-Band frequencies with Inmarsat (when the EC finally makes up its mind) – released a statement this morning saying that the W2A satellite carrying the S-Band payload, which was successfully launched on April 3 – has some sort of problem.

Here’s the full text:

“Solaris Mobile and its shareholders Eutelsat Communications and SES Astra announce that the current evaluation of the in-orbit tests of the S-band payload on the W2A satellite launched on April 3 indicate an anomaly which requires further tests. Additional analysis is consequently planned with the satellite’s prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space, in order to identify the cause of the anomaly and to fully assess the extent of the S-band payload’s capability to provide mobile satellite services to the European marketplace. Solaris Mobile remains confident of its ability to meet the commitments made according to the European Selection and Authorisation Process, under which it has applied for S-band spectrum to provide these services. The company is evaluating a range of options to compensate for this situation and expects to make further announcements in due course.”

Regardless of whether the anomaly turns out to be trivial or not, it comes at a sensitive time: as mentioned above, the ‘European Selection and Authorisation Process’ for allocating the S-Band frequencies, which Solaris Mobile wants to use for DVB-SH mobile broadcasting, has yet to formally announce the result of its deliberations.

With one of the other candidates, ICO, pursuing legal action in the European Court of First Instance over the whole procedure at the same time, there’s every prospect of a significant further delay, at least. At worst, Solaris Mobile might get passed over, with the frequencies being awarded to someone else (e.g. Inmarsat plus ICO).

The critical date is May 23rd – the date by which ICO has to decide whether to ask for a judicial review of a previous decision by Ofcom to deprive it of its existing ITU S-Band frequencies or not. This in turn will trigger Ofcom’s decision on whether to go ahead and ask the ITU to relieve ICO of its previous S-Band frequency allocati0ns.

Connected TV will keep you posted…..

**Update**Reuters has just released a story that the EC has today awarded the S-Band frequencies to Solaris Mobile and Inmarsat regardless of the above-mentioned glitch. Possibly the EU announcement was therefore already in the system before the W2A anomaly was known about. So the scene is now set for a possible challenge from ICO….