Companies that offer satellite-based services including mobile data, mobile TV, disaster relief and remote medical services will soon be able to do so across the whole of Europe, after the European Commission announced it was harmonising radio spectrum throughout the continent for this purpose.
On Thursday, the Commission launched a competition for service providers that want to address the whole European market. By doing so, the Commission hopes to make it more economically viable for satellite services to be developed and rolled out by operators, as they will no longer have to deal with differing spectrum in different countries.
"Mobile satellite services have the tremendous advantage of being able to cover most of the EU's territory thereby reaching millions of EU citizens across borders," said Viviane Reding, the telecoms commissioners, in Thursday's statement. "They represent an unprecedented opportunity for all Europeans to access new communication services, and this not only in metropolitan areas, but also in rural and less populated regions. However, these satellite services depend on substantial investment and therefore need simple and swift procedures as well as long-term legal certainty."
According to Reding, "the ball is in the camp of the industry".
"I expect intense competition among operators offering satellite-based communication services reaching consumers from the North of Sweden to the South of Spain," Reding added. "This could pave the way for first satellite launches already in the course of 2009."
The spectrum that has been allocated is in the 2GHz band. The 1980-2010MHz will be used for Earth-to-space communications, while the 2170-2200MHz range is pegged for space-to-Earth communications. The services being envisaged range from high-speed internet access to portable satellite telephones.
Companies wishing to participate in the competition have until 7 October to apply, and must be willing to demonstrate their technical and commercial ability to launch their systems within the hoped-for timescale.