Written evidence submitted by Inmarsat
Group Limited |
1. For over three decades, Inmarsat has been
the leading provider of mobile satellite communications services
around the globe. From its headquarters in London, Inmarsat has
contributed significantly to the national economy and provided
an ever-growing set of services, including advanced plans for
mobile broadband for use at sea, on land and in the air. The life-blood
of all these services is access to radio spectrum for sophisticated
satellites that cost many hundred millions of pounds to build,
launch and operate. For this reason, Inmarsat welcomes the opportunity
to provide written evidence to the Committee as part of its inquiry
2. This submission concerns the following four
is critical to the satellite communications industry.
satellite communications industry is important to the UK economywhen
identifying broadband spectrum, the UK also should take into account
this and other industries.
communications should be an integral component of the UK broadband
operators provide other critical services in addition to mobile
3. We are the leading provider of global mobile
satellite communications services ("MSS"). We provide
data and voice connectivity to end-users for use at sea, on land
and in the air.
4. Inmarsat's mission started as an Inter-Governmental
Organization providing MSS to maritime users, which include companies
engaged in merchant shipping, passenger transport, fishing, energy
and leisure, as well as government and maritime patrol organisations
(such as navies and coast guards). Inmarsat subsequently has expanded
its service portfolio and provides MSS as well to the land mobile
and aeronautical sectors, with users such as government entities,
media users, aid agencies, the oil and gas industries, and commercial
5. Today, as a privatised entity, Inmarsat is
in the forefront of developing sophisticated new technology for
satellite services. We currently operate three generations of
satellites, starting with three Inmarsat-2 satellites launched
in the early 1990s, five Inmarsat-3 satellites launched between
1996 and 1998, and three Inmarsat-4 satellites launched in March
and November 2005 and August 2008. Each of our Inmarsat-4 satellites
is up to 60 times more powerful, and has up to 16 times more communications
capacity than an Inmarsat-3 satellite, and the Inmarsat-4 satellites
are expected to extend the commercial life of our satellite fleet
6. Inmarsat is one of the two operators selected
through EU procedures to provide MSS across Europe, using two
GHz frequencies. The selection of Inmarsat's EuropaSat system
is part of EU policy to facilitate the introduction of innovative
pan-European satellite communications services. In adopting the
selection procedure, the European Parliament and the Council recognised
that this type of new MSS system is an innovative alternative
platform, which should contribute to enhanced competition and
efficient investment. They explicitly referred to MSS improving
coverage of rural areas and anticipated that new MSS applications
will emerge in the coming years.
7. Use of radio spectrum is the "life blood"
of satellite communications because highly expensive and sophisticated
satellites must be designed for operation in the harsh space environment
to operate over a lengthy lifespan using spectrum coordinated
through a complex international process. Inmarsat uses spectrum
below three GHz (the so-called "sweet spot") and will
continue to do so in the long term future.
8. For example, in November 2007, Inmarsat entered
into a contract with Astrium for the construction of a new satellite
called Alphasat to be deployed over the European and Middle East
region. The Alphasat satellite will provide our services across
the complete 41 megahertz of MSS spectrum available over this
region. Alphasat's advanced digital processor capability and optimised
antenna coverage will allow up to 50% more capacity for our services.
The total cost of the Alphasat programme, including manufacture
and launch of the satellite, is expected to be in the region of
9. Inmarsat already is planning ahead for its
next generation of satellites (the "Inmarsat-5" constellation).
For instance, in 2013 we expect to commence offering our "Global
Xpress" service, in downlink frequencies between 18 and 22
GHz and uplink frequencies between 27 and 31 GHz. These frequencies
are often referred to as the "Ka-band". Inmarsat plans
to offer connectivity at speeds of up to 50 Mbps to small antennas
via our Inmarsat-5 satellites using the Ka-band.
10. These kinds of investment and technology
development can only be made if there is suitable assurance that
spectrum will be available during the lifetime of the satellite.
Satellite registrations to obtain international recognition through
the International Telecommunication Union have a lead time of
up to seven years before the satellite is placed into service.
Today's sophisticated communications satellites have lifespans
up to fifteen years or longer. Once launched, satellites cannot
be "retuned" or modified to operate using other spectrum
assignments. A threat to the availability of the appropriate spectrum
means that substantial investments simply cannot be made. Regulatory
certainty is an important element for high upfront business planning
in the satellite sector.
11. Satellite operators must also assess the
availability of spectrum across the entire "footprint"
of the satellite. Moreover, unlike terrestrial mobile phone operators
who can choose from a variety of spectrum allocations within any
single country, satellite operators must rely on a fairly narrow
set of internationally coordinated spectrum bands. If a single
country within the footprint decides to make spectrum available
in ways inconsistent with its neighbours, it can either create
unacceptable interference for satellite operations or impede the
economic viability of the business case for the satellite services,
or both. A failure by one regulatory authority to take into account
the unique benefits of satellites services can thus deny those
services to users across Europe.
12. When identifying broadband spectrum, the
UK also should take into account this and other industries. These
activities are a large component of the UK Space industry, which
itself makes significant contributions to the national economy.
Policymakers have already recognised this contribution:
March this year, the Parliamentary Space Committee welcomed UK
Chancellor George Osborne's budgetary support for the Space industry
in "The Plan for Growth". The latter recognises the
Space industry as "an expanding industry", and highlights
the UK Space sector's growth average of 10% per year over the
last decade. A quarter of these revenues come from the satellite
the foreword to the UK Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (the
"IGS") in February 2010, the Minister for Science and
Innovation, stated that "the UK Space sector is a genuine
success story. We're responsible for world-class science in our
laboratories and on international missions. We manufacture many
of the satellites surrounding the Earth, and are experts in software
design and systems integration. The sector contributes £5.6
billion to the economy and supports 68,000 jobs."
13. Inmarsat is an important part of this Space
industry that contributes significantly to the UK economy. Our
11 in-orbit satellites are licensed under the UK Outer Space Act.
The majority of our 500+ employees work in London. During 2010,
revenues from Inmarsat Global were £465.4 million, an increase
of £42.2 million, or 10.0%, compared with 2009 (translated
at 7 June 2011 exchange rate).
14. These positions highlight that there are
numerous UK policy and legislative initiatives related to spectrum
that should be considered as part of spectrum policy. These different
societal policies must be assessed together with broadband planning
to ensure the right mix of spectrum uses is fostered.
THE UK BROADBAND
15. A central part of this inquiry is to assess
how best to provide mobile broadband services, in particular for
rural areas where normal networks have not been rolled out. Policymakers
recognise that satellite communications must be an integral part
of planning for broadband networks:
December 2010, the Government released "Britain's Superfast
Broadband Future," laying out strategy for ensuring the UK's
broadband networks. The summary acknowledges that "a mix
of technologiesfixed, wireless and satellitewill
be needed to deliver superfast broadband throughout the UK."
It notes that satellite "will need to be a part of any solution
aiming at universal coverage".
recently, on 31 May 2011, European Commission Vice President and
Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that satellites
will play a role in achieving EU digital agenda goals. She noted
that satellite communications "can provide a great contribution
to deliver the important goal of basic broadband for all".
She also raised an important notion that "supporting a range
of fixed and mobile solutions promotes competition among technologies,
allowing them to develop their comparative advantages and ensuring
that in future we can select from the best possible range of options".
same thinking is well-developed in the United States. As recently
as January this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
recognised that the network of the U.S. satellite MSS licensee
LightSquared "will be able to provide mobile broadband communications
in areas where it is difficult or impossible to provide coverage
by terrestrial base stations
, as well as at times when
coverage may be unavailable from terrestrial-based networks (such
as during natural disasters)".
16. The focus of this inquiry on mobile broadband
should not obscure that many other services rely on spectrum in
the same portion of the radio frequency spectrum that mobile terrestrial
operators seek. Among the recommendations of the IGS that we noted
above is that the Government should take full account of the wider
value of Space-enabled services when engaged in activities relating
to radio frequency spectrum allocation. The spectrum most in demand
below three GHz has been a prime focus for mobile terrestrial
operators, but it also is used by many other users and regulated
safety services. A sophisticated approach to "co-habitation"
amongst the different services is required to maximise welfare
for all users.
17. As we have noted above, Inmarsat provides
a wide range of services in addition to mobile broad band using
its satellite fleet in frequency bands below three GHz:
the maritime area, Inmarsat supports position reporting as a key
component of fishery management and ocean resource conservation.
We also provide safety services for distress purposes, some of
which are required by the International Maritime Organization
for cargo ships over a certain size and for all passenger vessels.
and government agencies constitute the largest end-users of our
services in the land mobile sector and demand reliable, high quality
services. Inmarsat provides important links to support relief
missions in response to natural disasters.
users rely on Inmarsat satellite communications services for Air
Traffic Control safety services, while aircraft crew and air traffic
controllers use our services for data and voice communication
between the flight deck and ground-based control facilities.
18. These are but a few of the examples of services
that Inmarsat provides using spectrum in the traditional bands
below three GHz. As part of our mission to innovate with new technology
approaches, however, we also are working to expand operations
in higher spectrum bands, such as the Ka-band service described
above. Although part of the band is shared with fixed links, any
future oriented policy for this band should also consider the
use by satellite communications. Some mobile terrestrial operators
seek to use these same frequencies for backhaul purposes (ie carrying
traffic from masts back to network control centres for further
onward transmission, and not between customer handsets directly).
This approach needs to be addressed reasonably to ensure continued
growth of the satellite sector while balancing needs of terrestrial
19. It is timely and important for the Committee
to review UK policy towards the use of radio spectrum. It must
consistently be kept in mind that many different industry sectors
rely on spectrum, some as the major input into their services,
and those industries in turn contribute very substantially to
the national economy. The provision of broadband service is a
compelling goal, especially to rural areas where the contribution
of satellite networks can be substantial. The satellite industry
also contributes to wider goals, providing services that cannot
be obtained through any other networks and as a real, competitive
alternative. International aspects of this industry must also
be taken into account, because of the complex international regulatory
structures and the export opportunities that UK satellites offer.
We welcome a careful balancing of these different needs for spectrum
as part of the UK broadband plan.
14 This amount is taken from Inmarsat Group Limited's
2010 Annual Financial Information Disclosure Report, with sums
originally expressed in US$ converted to GBP at the prevailing
exchange rate on 7 June 2011. Back