Feeds

Ofcom tries to launch satellite plans again

EU holds the upper hand (literally)

Build a business case: developing custom apps

UK regulator Ofcom is consulting, again, on proposals to allow satellite broadcasters to use terrestrial transmitters, but won't be drawn on the most important issue of all - price.

The EU is planning to license a satellite operator to use 60MHz of spectrum around 2GHz for two-way data services, but said operator will want to use ground-based base stations, to improve coverage at the same frequency as the satellite. This is something that has to be licensed by regional operators such as Ofcom, which has proposed charging a quarter of a million quid per MHz for the privilege of filling holes.

The spectrum in question is 1980-2010MHz for the downlink, and 2170-2200MHz for the return channel, this is fairly short range* but compares well with 3G telephony which hangs around 2.1GHz in Europe. That means a satellite signal won't penetrate much into buildings, or in urban canyons, so operators like to deploy a Complementary Ground Component (CGC) - a network of base stations operating at the same frequency as the satellite but technically fixed to avoid interfering with it.

Normally Ofcom would want to auction off the spectrum, and where that's not possible the regulator uses Administrated Incentive Pricing (AIP) to work out what the value would be if a different service were deployed in that spectrum. The problem here is that only the company operating the satellite will be able to run the ground-based network - anyone else would be unable to avoid interfering, so there's no change of a UK auction. Ofcom wants to use AIP, and has estimated the value of the spectrum at £554,000 per pair of 1MHz blocks based on what it would be worth if GSM were deployed there.

But GSM can't be deployed there, as the spectrum is only of value to the holder of the satellite licence: there is no other service that could be deployed. Some respondents, such as the BBC, argue that this means the spectrum is worthless and therefore any charge should only cover administration fees. Others, including UK operator 3, argue that the spectrum is sufficiently close to 3G to be estimated on the sale-value of that spectrum - putting the price up to a potential £1.68m for each pair of MHz.

This is not uniquely a UK issue, as the Satellite Industry Association puts it:

"If the proposed Ofcom AIP spectrum fee were adopted by half of the European nations covered by the pan-European 2GHz MSS authorization it would cost MSS operators approximately £183,000,000 annually in fees alone to provide CGC. Fees this high would likely render any business plan infeasible for 2GHz MSS/CGC."

Of course, there's nothing to stop an operator launching a satellite, offering a service such as mobile TV, and just not paying Ofcom anything - but that would mean terrible in-building-and-urban coverage for UK punters with the spectrum lying unused while the only potential customer makes their money elsewhere.

Ofcom is apparently talking to companies interested in offering satellite services, and will issue a statement on pricing later this year. Until then you can read about their decisions on whether the licence should be legally linked to the EU-wide satellite operator's licence (yes), and if any licensee will be required to provide minimum coverage (no), in their consultation - but for the big question you'll have to wait while Ofcom consults for a third time. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.