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ICO sets lawyers on Ofcom Dear John letter

Calls for judicial review

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ICO Global Communications is taking Ofcom to court over the regulator's decision to instruct the International Telecommunications Union to de-register spectrum reserved for its mobile satellite service.

But the US operator has cut it fine, only just making last Saturday's deadline to request a judicial review.

In February Ofcom said it would send a letter to the (ITU) recommending the spectrum that Ofcom had previously asked to be allocated to ICO to be de-registered, and reallocated to the winners of a European Commission beauty contest to award spectrum rights for providers of mobile satellite services. Two weeks ago, the Commission announced that Inmarsat and Solaris were the winners. ICO and TerreStar Europe, the other loser, are fighting the award in the courts.

Ofcom justified its decision to write the letter to the ITU - which it can't send, pending legal action - by ICO's apparent failure to make use of the spectrum. ICO has one satellite already aloft and operating at that frequency, and several more under construction - although the launch schedule has slipped badly due to problems with construction and legal issues with Boeing, the satellite maker.

ICO contends that the EU lacks the authority to award spectrum on a trans-national basis. But its argument will be greatly weakened if Ofcom succeeds in instructing the ITU to de-allocate the spectrum.

That might still happen - depending on the outcome of the judicial review. But the fact that such a review is now necessary means the question of who gets to provide mobile satellite services to Europe is still very open to debate. ®

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