Ofcom Files Request with ITU to Revoke ICO’s 2GHz Spectrum Authorization
[Satellite TODAY Insider 10-26-11] Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for British communications industries, has filed a request with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to rescind its 2GHz spectrum allocation to ICO Global Communications, according to documents published Oct. 24. Ofcom is responsible for ICO’s spectrum assignments because it is the ITU representative for the Cayman Islands, where ICO is based.
ICO, which re-branded to Pendrell Corp. in June, lost its judicial review action against Ofcom in August 2010. The company filed the review in 2009 after Ofcom announced its intent to request that the ITU remove ICO’s global medium-Earth orbit satellite system from the Master International Frequency Register (MIFR). The court ruling allowed Ofcom to move forward with the request.
During that case, the court rejected ICO’s suggestion that there was no reason to de-allocate its spectrum authorization as the company claimed that there was no one waiting to use the spectrum. The judges agreed with Ofcom’s assertion that many companies looking for spectrum would not reveal their intentions to lease it until there is bandwidth available.
Ofcom originally began discussions regarding the spectrum with ICO in 2006. Two years later, the regulatory board requested ITU to authorize ICO for the spectrum frequencies so that it could operate its ICO-P satellite-broadband service. By February 2009, Ofcom claimed that ICO was having difficulties in launching its satellites and urged initial ITY proceedings to cancel ICO’s MIFR assignments.
In June 2009, Ofcom notified ICO that the satellite operator has to show progress toward the launch of its ICO-P mobile satellite system by the end of that month or face loss of its spectrum assignment. ICO plans to use a constellation of 12 satellites to provide mobile satellite services, but has not placed a satellite in orbit since the 2001 launch of ICO-P F2.
ICO spent more than 2 billion British pounds ($3.19 billion) on the project, before running out of financial resources and entering into an ongoing legal dispute with manufacturer Boeing regarding the remaining satellites, which currently remain unfinished. ICO was forced to sell its U.S. subsidiary to Dish Network earlier this year.
While Ofcom’s request to remove ICO from the list is not binding with the ITU, the outcome may increase the likelihood that the ITU will follow through with initial proceedings to cancel ICO’s MIFR assignments, the regulatory board said.