Ofcom to finally yank sat broadband biz off the air

ITU asked to revoke ICO's frequency rights


Ofcom has written to the International Telecommunications Union asking it to rescind the spectrum allocation to ICO Satellite after the company's 32-month campaign failed.

ICO had appealed against the courts' refusal to grant a judicial review of Ofcom's original decision to write the letter, which the regulator wanted to send in February 2009 having decided ICO wasn't making sufficient use of the 2GHz spectrum it had been allocated. ICO fought that decision every step of the way, but is now out of options and the request to the ITU is in the post.

Assuming the ITU agrees to remove the allocation then the next applicant in line will get access, though who that will be we don't know as the ITU will have to consider who could make best use of the band - which is reserved internationally for satellite communications.

Ofcom originally requested the band on behalf of ICO, which wanted some frequencies in which to run its ICO-P satellite-broadband service. ICO did manage to get one bird in the air before it ran out of cash and entered into an ongoing dispute with Boeing over the remaining birds. That dispute has left the company's satellites grounded and largely unfinished while litigation continues.

Around 2006 Ofcom started talking to ICO about its options for using the spectrum, and by 2009 it was clear that ICO was going to have a hard time getting any more satellites flying so Ofcom decided to complete the paperwork to release the spectrum.

That would leave ICO, which has spent more than £2bn on the project, with no frequencies in which to operate in Europe (the company also has a US operation, which was bought up by Dish Networks earlier this year), but that argument fell on deaf ears at the appeal as financial loss isn't Ofcom's problem.

The judges in the case also rejected ICO's suggestion that as there was no one waiting to use the spectrum there was no reason to de-allocate it. The problem with that argument is that around the world there are lots of companies hoping for satellite spectrum, many of whom won't break cover until there is a band available.

ICO's only remaining argument - that it wasn't their fault and Boeing was to blame - was also considered irreverent, despite being sad.

The end of the appeal means the letter can be sent, and that has now happened. It's possible the ITU could decide not to delist the spectrum, but this is really unlikely, which is probably why in June ICO renamed itself Pendrell and acquired Ovidian - "a leading partner in providing corporate IP and litigation", with a view to "establish a new ‘gold standard’ in IP for the world’s leading technology companies". ®

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Liftoff at last for South Korean space program
    Satellite-deploying rocket finally launches – after a few setbacks

    South Korea's Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) yesterday succeeded in its endeavor to send the home-grown Nuri launcher into space, then place a working satellite in orbit.

    The launch was scheduled for earlier in June but was delayed by weather and then again by an anomaly in a first-stage oxidizer tank. Its October 2021 launch failed to deploy a dummy satellite, thanks to similar oxidizer tank problems that caused internal damage.

    South Korea was late to enter the space race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the US, which prohibited it developing a space program. That agreement was set aside and yesterday's launch is the culmination of more than a decade of development. The flight puts South Korea in a select group of nations that have demonstrated the capability to build and launch domestically designed and built orbital-class rockets.

    Continue reading
  • Sony launches a space laser subsidiary (for comms, not conflict)
    Plans to beam data to satellites, and between orbiting birds too

    Sony on Friday launched a subsidiary dedicated to optical communications – in space.

    The new company, Sony Space Communications Corporation (SSCC) plans to develop small optical communication devices that connect satellites in low Earth orbit using a laser beam, and provide the resulting connection as a service.

    These small devices can provide high speed communication more effectively than radio, because they do not need a large antenna, high power output or complicated licenses, said Sony in a canned statement.

    Continue reading
  • Beijing needs the ability to 'destroy' Starlink, say Chinese researchers
    Paper authors warn Elon Musk's 2,400 machines could be used offensively

    An egghead at the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, writing in a peer-reviewed domestic journal, has advocated for Chinese military capability to take out Starlink satellites on the grounds of national security.

    According to the South China Morning Post, lead author Ren Yuanzhen and colleagues advocated in Modern Defence Technology not only for China to develop anti-satellite capabilities, but also to have a surveillance system that could monitor and track all satellites in Starlink's constellation.

    "A combination of soft and hard kill methods should be adopted to make some Starlink satellites lose their functions and destroy the constellation's operating system," the Chinese boffins reportedly said, estimating that data transmission speeds of stealth fighter jets and US military drones could increase by a factor of 100 through a Musk machine connection.

    Continue reading
  • Starlink's Portability mode lets you take your sat broadband dish anywhere*
    * Terms and so many conditions apply

    Starlink customers who've been itching to take their dish on the road can finally do so – for a price. 

    The Musk-owned satellite internet service provider quietly rolled out a feature this week called Portability which, for an additional $25 per month, will allow customers to take their service with them anywhere on the same continent – provided they can find a clear line-of-sight to the sky and the necessary power needed to keep the data flowing.

    That doesn't mean potential Starlink customers sign up for service in an area without a wait list and take their satellite to a more congested area. Sneaky, but you won't get away with it. If Starlink detects a dish isn't at its home address, there's no guarantee of service if there's not enough bandwidth to go around, or there's another outage.

    Continue reading
  • Cable giants, ISPs, telcos end legal fight against California's net neutrality law
    If you can't beat the Golden State, try again at the federal level

    California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday welcomed the decision by a group of telecom and cable industry associations to abandon their legal challenge of the US state's net neutrality law SB822.

    "My office has fought for years to ensure that internet service providers can't interfere with or limit what Californians do online," said Bonta in a statement. "Now the case is finally over.

    "Following multiple defeats in court, internet service providers have abandoned this effort to block enforcement of California's net neutrality law. With this victory, we’ve secured a free and open internet for California's 40 million residents once and for all."

    Continue reading
  • UK watchdogs ask how they can better regulate algorithms
    We have bad news: you probably can't... but good luck anyway

    UK watchdogs under the banner of the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) have called for views on the benefits and risks of how sites and apps use algorithms.

    While "algorithm" can be defined as a strict set of rules to be followed by a computer in calculations, the term has become a boogeyman as lawmakers grapple with the revelation that they are involved in every digital service we use today.

    Whether that's which video to watch next on YouTube, which film you might enjoy on Netflix, who turns up in your Twitter feed, search autosuggestions, and what you might like to buy on Amazon – the algorithm governs them all and much more.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022