Providers of Ka-band “mobility services” achieved a significant milestone in March: the conclusion of a European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations’ (CEPT) Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) decision regarding Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms (ESOMPs). In addition to two International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) reports and a European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) guideline, proponents of this decision have rightly focused on promulgating a decision in the CEPT, the most effective of the regional bodies with the best technical evaluation capabilities and a high level of stakeholder cooperation.
CEPT ECC decision (13)01 establishes technical and operational conditions for the harmonized use of ESOMPs operating in geostationary satellite networks in certain parts of the Ka-band to ensure protection of fixed satellite service (FSS) and fixed service (FS) networks.
For satellite operators and service providers, the decision suggests that ESOMPs be exempted from individual licensing. Many in Europe have already committed to this approach, requiring no – or minimal – additional regulatory obligations on operators, aided in part by a central database on the systems, which administrations can consult. But not all regulators will take Europe’s lead in enabling these stations to be used on an uncoordinated basis without further control. Global operators have, for the past five to 10 years, hammered out approval regimes for Earth Stations on Vessels (ESVs) and Aircraft Earth Stations (AES) around the world to enable broadband services on ships and aircraft – with the benefit of ITU recommendations or resolutions as well as CEPT ECC decisions and ETSI standards. What models have been common, and how have they related to the CEPT examples for each of those services? Will classification as ESOMPs remove the distinctions some regulators created between treatment of maritime and aeronautical services?
Middle Eastern regulators look readily to CEPT technical studies and decisions, however, the record on aero and maritime service exemption was mixed for Ku-band service. Several years ago, Gulf regulators discussed ESV rules at a GCC spectrum meeting to determine whether operational limitations established in the ITU’s resolution 902 were acceptable. The technical case could be made to take service up to shore, but most Gulf regulators still excluded ships operating foreign ESV networks in their territorial waters in order to protect national licensed operators as well as to uphold local lawful intercept obligations.
In Africa, CEPT decisions are also quite influential among regulators in part because the regions’ spectrum allocations are similar. Treatment of Ku-band maritime and aeronautical service has been widely variable across Africa – reflecting the huge variation in resources and market structures. With exemption of aeronautical services finding easier favor than maritime, which could have less to do with technical coordination issues and more to do with revenue as regulators in resource-rich countries often see ESVs and VSATs as a revenue stream and require individual licensing. The approach to ESOMPs can also be expected to vary considerably.
Asia is a diverse region, with a wider divergence of spectrum allocations and, therefore, less harmonization in APT than within CEPT. Despite this, relatively common models exist in the region requiring terminals in national territory to be under the control of nationally licensed operators – including, often, for visiting ships. Asian regulators are likely to treat each of the ESOMP service types according to different national rules.
As for Latin America, the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) generally takes some note of CEPT’s lead, but despite being composed of administrations with broadly similar spectrum allocations, it is unlikely the body will take coordinated action on ESOMPs. For example, CITEL’s ESV decision, itself similar to the model adopted by CEPT, was not uniformly implemented. The region’s regulators do make some provision for simplified end user licensing in some cases, but broadly, control of networks through national licensed operators is common.
The CEPT ESOMP decision will be an excellent tool for operators and end users to highlight in seeking simpler authorization regimes. They would do well, however, to plan additionally to address the same national service rules that they are familiar with in Ku-band.
Nina Beebe is director for emerging markets at Access Partnership in London. She assists satellite service integrators, operators, and others in securing market access and licenses on a global basis.