Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 121

Submission from Ofcom


  1.  Ofcom was established as a body corporate by the Office of Communications Act 2002. Ofcom is the regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services. In relation to satellite and space sciences, Ofcom are responsible for international and national spectrum management, including:

    —  International negotiations on space and science services allocations within the ITU Radio Regulations.

    —  Managing, on behalf of UK government, the specific ITU satellite co-ordination and notification procedure.

    —  Earth station licensing in the UK.

    —  Engagement in international forum on sharing criteria for space and science services spectrum shared with other services.

  2.  Current specific activities which Ofcom is undertaking on behalf of our stakeholders in the satellite sector are the preparation and attendance, later this year, at the international ITU World Radio Conference; and support to the European Commission's process for the selection & authorisation of Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) at 2GHz.

  3.  Whilst we believe that, given the specific focus of your inquiry, it would not be appropriate for Ofcom to comment more widely on the issues that have been raised, nor to expand on the range of issues we deal with, within the satellite and space arena, we do think it would be helpful to give some context to a number of specific points, raised during the inquiry that relate to directly to Ofcom's activities in this regard.

  4.  Ofcom Response to P.168 of the memoranda (from Intellect):

  5.  "To help government users and UK enterprises exploit space and fulfil its wider policy objectives the UK should seek to align its regulatory approach to support its strategic development, rather than hinder it as sometimes appears to be the case now. For example, Ofcom's management of UK spectrum use is becoming very UK-centric in that the wider policy implications and international dimensions of existing and new satellite services do not appear to be taken into adequate account when planning future spectrum usage. Specific examples include:

    —  "Ofcom is seeking to allow new terrestrial services to encroach on the existing receive C-band transmission band which will restrict the introduction of new earth stations and potentially cause interference into existing links. This is the prime band for global connectivity and could jeopardise the UK links to other countries, in particular in Africa where satellites in this band provide the only available telecommunications link between the UK and many of the poorer countries."

  6.  This is a very important issue for the UK and Ofcom is currently considering this as part of its preparation for the ITU World Radio Conference. Ofcom consulted with UK stakeholders on the line that the UK should take in the international discussions which might lead to this decision, earlier this year, to which responses were received from both the mobile and satellite stakeholders, presenting conflicting views. Ofcom is currently evaluating these responses and expects to make a statement on this issue in the near future.

    —  "Ofcom is planning to use an unwieldy clearance mechanism for temporary transportable terminals in the internationally designated exclusive satellite bands (eg 14-14.25GHz) for VSAT services. This would represent an additional burden for new players seeking to support the security and emergency services with new capabilities."

  7.  Ofcom has no plans to change the way temporary transportable satellite terminals are cleared for permission to operate. Ofcom assumes that a misunderstanding has occurred.

    —  "Ofcom requiring clearance (SATCLEAR) and registration of VSAT terminals for satellite broadband and similar services in the UK—no such registration is required in some other parts of Europe."

  8.  Ofcom has an obligation to ensure that vital government communications and safety services are protected from the risk of interference. This has resulted in the current site-clearance procedures. Ofcom keeps such requirements under review so as to minimise the regulatory burden on stakeholders and is currently reviewing with MOD and CAA their specific requirements within the SATCLEAR process.

    —  "Ofcom is proposing a massive increase in satellite earth station licence fees (at least three-fold for most permanent earth stations) and this will have a detrimental effect on business cases for satellite services."

  9.  Satellite Earth Stations and Fixed Link systems operate in spectrum that is allocated to both services on a shared basis. Licences are awarded to new applicants for either type of station on the basis of being able to demonstrate frequency coordination with systems that have already been licensed. Therefore the value factors in the proposed Satellite earth station fee algorithms are derived from comparable value factors that were introduced into Fixed Link licence fee algorithms in 2005. The revised Satellite Earth Station fee algorithm is structured in a similar way to the existing fee algorithm. However, some years ago the value factors in the fee algorithm were erroneously set too low and as a result Earth station licence fees fell dramatically below the level they had been previously. This revised fee algorithm was the subject of a public consultation and corrects the anomaly which has existed for five years.

May 2007

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