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GVF: Blanket Licensing a Must Have for Emerging Satellite Markets

By Caleb Henry | December 26, 2013
      Fiber Regulation P2P P2MP

      David Hartshorn, secretary general, GVF. Photo: GVF

      [Via Satellite 12-26-13] As satellite industry leaders concentrate more of their resources on capturing market share in different economies, a potential stumbling block in their efforts could stem from no wrongdoing of their own. Government interests in satellite, along with government needs, make it a very influential actor in the market. With fiber and satellite overlap becoming more frequent, it is vital that countries make use of the best regulatory system in order to prevent satellite from getting crowded out. Over the past two decades, emerging countries in the satellite industry have shifted away from monopolies to a more competitive market. Global VSAT Forum Secretary General David Hartshorn recently highlighted how countries can use a blanket licensing approach to ensure the coexistence of satellite in the marketplace.

      Hartshorn has helped policy makers in various countries create optimal regulatory frameworks for satellite. “When we started showing up to these governments across the world, we thought it was going to be a pitched battle,” Hartshorn told Via Satellite. “We were surprised to see that we were showing up at a time in history where governments were actually turning their attention to the notion that strategic liberalization, as it was referred to, was in their national best interest. Which is to say by beginning to open the market to more than one service provider … by doing this it would unleash forces that would accrue to national best interest. They were already beginning to realize that by liberating their market it would attract foreign investment.”

      The GVF used this positive momentum to help guide countries closer to their national ambitions. Often these were tied into the Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations had set forth. “Governments are seen to be ticking multiple boxes across all of this activity,” said Hartshorn. “There was recognition already in place that they could attract capital to boost economic growth in their country, and they were hearing that from potential investors, banks, the World Bank not least among them, as well as from the industry. [Today] we have more companies at the local level providing satellite services, which are within reach financially of a growing number of user groups.”

      A major concern however, was that satellite growth would not continue in areas where fiber had become the dominant means of connectivity. And as satellite operators grew, their licensing needs placed a larger burden on regulators to keep pace. The GVF quelled these concerns by showing countries new to the satellite industry how they can play off the strengths and weakness of both technologies, and streamline the licensing process so that satellite could still compete.

      “In some countries every single VSAT had to be licensed,” explained Hartshorn. “Can you imagine that? In other countries, you would license the VSAT network but then there would be layers of restrictions. We looked at blanket licensing and the basic idea is: satellite inherently is at its best in serving not point-to-point applications (P2P), but point-to-multipoint (P2MP) applications. Fiber optic cable is inherently at its best when establishing P2P links.”

      The example GVF often uses to demonstrate the viability of a strong satellite market with fiber in place is the United States. “You have more fiber availability than most countries in the world, and you have the single largest installed base of satellite services of any country in the world, bar none,” said Hartshorn. “Why is that? It’s because as markets emerge and evolve, fiber is seen to be the P2P tool, and satellite is seen to be the P2MP tool. It’s not either-or, it’s both.”

      As more countries enter the satellite market, the GVF has sought to encourage the use of blanket licensing to stimulate healthy growth and ease of access for satellite technology. This simplified licensing method is essential to the preservation of meaningful satellite-based P2MP resources around the world. Countries and geographic regions that excel at this method serve as strong examples. Brazil, notably, is one of those.

      “Brazil in that context has been a leader among nations in adapting their policies and their regulatory approaches,” said Hartshorn. “They have had one of the biggest role outs the world has ever seen of fiber optic in the 1990s. Look at the satellite industry today… in a fiber-rich environment in Brazil; you have one of the strongest satellite markets in the world. And that has happened because in large measure, the regulatory authority [Anatel] had the vision and enlightened sensibility to work with an established successful licensing model, which enabled them to do a wide-scale roll out.”