The European Commission is to allow two companies to provide mobile satellite services in Europe.
The companies, Inmarsat Ventures and Solaris Mobile, will be able to roll out satellite-based services such as high-speed internet access, mobile TV services, satellite telephony and emergency services, the Commission announced in a statement on Wednesday.
By October 2008, four companies had applied for EU approval to supply such services in Europe. The two that did not get backing were ICO Satellite and TerreStar Europe. The Commission said that Inmarsat and Solaris "demonstrated the required level of technical and commercial development of their satellite systems".
"Mobile satellite services have huge potential: they can enable Europeans to access new communication services, particularly in rural and less populated regions," the EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement. "I therefore welcome that we have now cleared the way for the swift launch of these pan-European services."
The two chosen firms will still need to apply for national licences for mobile satellite service provision. The Commission's selection was necessary in order to harmonise the cross-border services and the spectrum they will use. This spectrum, in the 2GHz band, includes 1980-2010MHz for Earth-to-space communications and 2170-2200MHz for space-to-Earth communications.
Reding called on member states to issue the relevant licences on a national basis "without any delay […] in order to allow a timely and proper launch of mobile satellite services".
As for the companies themselves, a condition of their Commission approval was that they have their mobile satellite services up and running within two years of the approval date. Their nationally-based licences, if granted, will allow them to provide those services for 18 years.
The Commission expects Inmarsat and Solaris to have their first satellites and services operational by the end by the end of next year, it said.
Inmarsat already runs a commercial satellite phone service for those travelling in remote regions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and has stated that it wants to run this service on a global basis.