‘Are Satellite Companies Hogging Space?’ FCC Asks

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Communications Commission seeks comments on whether top satellite operators are inhibiting competition and if so, to what extent, the agency announced in a notice of inquiry.
     The FCC wants to know if Fixed Service Satellite (FSS) companies are warehousing satellite orbital locations and whether some competitors, such as Intelsat, the top FSS operator in the world, is trying to block competition by controlling both space and ground services.
     The FCC’s notice is the result of comments submitted in response to two congressionally mandated reports, The Orbit Act Report and the Satellite Competition Report. Both are mandated as part of the Open-Market Reorganization for the Betterment of International Telecommunications Act (Orbit Act).
     The Orbit Act, passed in 2000, amended the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 to promote competition and privatization in satellite communications, according to GovTrack.us.
     Specifically, it mandates the privatization of Intelsat LLC, formerly known as the intergovernmental Satellite body. The comments suggest Intelsat and other operators are involved in anticompetitive behavior in two ways.
     “First, that Intelsat and other dominant satellite operators are warehousing scarce orbital resources, i.e., hoarding satellite orbital locations and frequency assignment by failing to replace aging satellites on a timely basis or otherwise failing to provide transponder capacity that reflects current technology,” the FCC said in its notice.
     The FCC also said it wants to know if Intelsat is attempting to cast off competition by hogging both space and ground services.
     “The second allegation is that Intelsat is now a vertically integrated company, i.e., able to provide its customers both space and ground communications services that discriminate against competitors. Consequently, some integrators allege that this dual role has resulted in them being vertically foreclosed or barred by Intelsat from securing satellite bandwidth capacity.”
     Fixed Service Satellite (FSS) is a service that supports stationary terminals on the ground and provides television, radio and broadcast network feeds, according to Telesat, the fourth largest FSS company in the world, according to spacenews.com.
     “The world market for FSS is now over $10 billion annually and is significantly larger than the worldwide market for mobile satellite services (MSS),” according to Telesat.
     Mobile Satellite Services feature terminals that can be fixed or in motion on a vehicle, ship or airplane.
     “Demand for both FSS and MSS is growing rapidly and the distinction between the two is becoming blurred as each is now serving the other’s traditional markets,” according to Telesat.
     The top FSS operators in the world include 1. Intelsat, 2. SES, 3. Eutelsat, 4. Telesat and 5. Sky Perfect JSAT, according to spacenews.com.
     Comments are due by Aug. 19.

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