SES and Eutelsat settle UK/Ireland satellite frequency dispute

The long running dispute between satellite operators SES and Eutelsat is over, as a series of agreements are reached between the two companies affecting who and how satellite services are delivered to the British Isles and beyond.

Last October, the dispute resulted in numerous Sky and Freesat channels changing frequencies following a court ruling in Germany, which prohibited Eutelsat from broadcasting numerous satellite services on a band of frequencies that SES claimed rights over. Sky and Freesat had to update their Electronic Programme Guides (EPGs) to point receivers first to temporary and then permanent new frequencies, minimising disruption to viewers.

Both Eutelsat and SES claimed rights over a block of frequencies  (11.45 – 11.70 GHz and 12.50 – 12.75 GHz) - totaling 500 MHz - to use for satellite services at the UK/Ireland satellite orbital postition 28.2/5 degrees East. Eutelsat used to broadcast satellite services in this frequency band from its Eutelsat 28A satellite.

The dispute is expected to have cost Eutelsat €5 million during the 2013/14 operating year, but with no impact on revenues for the next two operating years.

Both companies released details of three agreements today, bringing the dispute to an end: Under the terms of the first two agreements, the arbitral procedure between Eutelsat and SES that was initiated in October 2012 under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris has been concluded.

Eutelsat will hire satellite capacity from SES, consisting of 8 transponders covering 125 MHz of the disputed 500 MHz, plus additional capacity consisting of 12 transponders, covering a 250 MHz band of frequencies that weren't in dispute.

The deal is expected to see services such as the Freesat EPG, NHK World, CBS Drama, Bloomberg and True Movies 1 and 2, currently broadcast on the last 12 remaining live transponders on the Eutelsat 28A satellite moving across to SES-operated satellites, including Astra 2E, F and the forthcoming Astra 2G.

The Eutelsat 28A satellite is widely seen as getting towards the end of its operational life.

A third agreement between the two companies addresses technical frequency coordination under the rules of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

It will allow both parties an optimised use of their respective spectrum at a number of orbital positions over Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It confirms and clarifies in technical terms the geographic coverage and transmission power levels for frequencies at these positions.

"The agreements with Eutelsat create a secure framework for operations in major broadcasting and data markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa", said Romain Bausch, President and CEO of SES.

Michel de Rosen, Chairman and CEO of Eutelsat, said: "Guided by key objectives to deliver clients impeccable service and to optimise spectrum use, Eutelsat and SES have taken a pragmatic and business-like approach to reaching this settlement. These long-term agreements clarify the conditions for interference-free operations, enabling each company to independently expand its commercial activity in a competitive environment. Eutelsat is committed to delivering innovative services at one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in the broadcasting market and can now further improve the productivity of its in-orbit resources and future investments."

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