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Satellite Radio Sector In Europe

By | December 7, 2007

       [12-07-07 – Satellite News] While most of the satellite industry focused on C-band at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-07), a pair of companies planning to launch satellite radio services in Europe were focused on an entirely different issue.
          Both Ondas Media and WorldSpace are preparing to launch commercial satellite radio services in Europe. Delegates at WRC-07 discussed a potential revision of radio regulations that could be on the agenda at WRC-11, but Ondas and WorldSpace have reached different conclusions as to the potential impact these issues may have on satellite radio in Europe and their respective plans.

      Main Issue

          “The main issue was whether the agenda of WRC-2011 should include a potential revision of the radio regulation No. 22.2 for the band 1452-1492 megahertz. No. 22.2 currently requires HEO [highly elliptical orbit] systems to protect existing and future geostationary systems and provides that HEOs can’t claim protection from [geostationary satellites],” Tedros (Ted) Lemma, WorldSpace’s vice president of regulatory affairs, said. “The proposed revision, which was eventually rejected, was aimed at putting HEOs and geostationary networks on an equal footing.”
          The proposal was submitted to WRC-07 by Europe at the behest of the Spanish administration, which has filed to launch a HEO system in L-band, Lemma said.
          “Had the proposal been accepted, a lot of work would still have been required …, but as of today, one can say it is impractical to launch a HEO system in L-band because Rule 22.2 requires HEO should protect [geostationary] operations in that band. Moreover, there is no relief in sight for the HEO L-band proponents, for the decision was not to include the subject on the WRC 2011 agenda.”
          Lemma believes this is bad news for Ondas. “Over the past few years, Ondas has been championing the introduction of a HEO system in L-band, leading to some confusion on whether a HEO system might be feasible for Europe,” he said. “In that sense, the outcome of WRC-07 has been so definitive in clarifying the regulatory playing field that Ondas has now reversed course announcing that it is joining the already heavily crowded field interested in S-band.”
          Dave Krueger, COO of Ondas, dismissed claims that that events at WRC-07 were a major blow to the company’s plans. “Europe had proposed an agendum item for the next WRC that some studies be allowed in this intervening four-year period that would look at some of the technical complexities of these systems and how they would operate, and we simply supported that European position as one would expect,” he said. “That is why they created a European common position. At the end, there are 35-odd of these types of positions. The group sits down and decides which ones are the most important issues to address. You have to prioritize them. Europe itself decided this was not one of the highest priorities and we agreed with that. I think the recommendation was not to push forward.”
          While Ondas is shifting its emphasis to S-band, the company’s position on L-band services has not changed, Krueger said. “We shifted our emphasis on the S-band due to the fact that our car customers told us they prefer the higher frequency equipment since it is easier to install in their cars and more similar to the equipment they are using in the U.S. for satellite radio.”   

      Business Plans   

          The challenge for both players ultimately will be to build profitable businesses in Europe. WorldSpace has received regulatory approval to offer services in Italy and hopes to begin operations by the end of 2008 and expand to additional markets in 2010.
          “We already have an agreement in place with Fiat for both aftermarket and [original equipment manufacturing] available in three of their lines,” Lemma said. “The aftermarket service will be available throughout Fiat’s dealership network and we are looking at other distribution channels as well.”

          Ondas announced a deal Dec.7 with Space Systems/Loral to begin work on developing an S-band satellite infrastructure and hopes to launch services in 2011, but the company is still in the process of raising the funding needed. In the meantime, Ondas plans to launch services via other outlets such as the Internet and other terrestrial platforms.
          “We are very much on track in our fundraising activities, which is central to any project moving forward,” Krueger said. “We will continue to be working on those critical areas. We will continue to achieve our goals in launching services. Those services will be launched on a variety of platforms because of the appeal of the content itself. It is not something that is only for a reception in the automobile. If you look at the U.S, you can get XM and Sirius on boats, on aeroplanes, on your cell phone. We see this is going to be compelling on a number of different platforms and we will be rolling out these services as soon as we can in the next year.”

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