Astra 2F ready for disputed orbital slot

Picture: SES

Astra 2F, the satellite that has led to a dispute with rival operator Eutelsat, has entered commercial service.

The SES-operated satellite has now completed its in-orbit testing and is fully operational within the 28.2/28.5 degrees East neighbourhood. The 52nd SES satellite was successfully launched on board an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, on September 28, 2012.

The Astrium-built Eurostar E3000 is the first of three satellites, the so-called 2R replacement series, which will provide replacement satellites to serve the UK & Ireland. The spot beam will provide improved reception in the North of the UK and Scotland, though still clipping the top of France. In addition to 48 Ku-band frequencies used by direct-to-home broadcasts in Europe, Astra 2F also sports 12 Ku-band transponders dedicated to sub-Saharan Africa, while 3 Ka-band transponders will allow SES Broadband Services to support download speeds of up to 20 Mbps.

Astra 2E and Astra 2G, also under construction with Astrium, are scheduled for launch in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The frequency dispute with Eutelsat remains unresolved with SES adamant it has been granted the rights to use the German orbital frequencies at 28.5 degrees East from October 4, 2013 under a 2005 agreement with German media services provider Media Broadcast, the TDF-owned business that acquired Telekom’s T-Services division. Media Broadcast holds the licence for the frequencies issued by the Bundesnetzagentur under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Currently Astra 2A, Astra 2B and Astra 1N carry signals on behalf of SES at the position, while Eutelsat 28A (the former Eurobird 1) offers broadcasters an alternative operator. The dispute covers two blocks of frequencies, 11.45 GHz to 11.70 GHz and 12.50 GHz to 12.75 GHz that between them represent 500 MHz of capacity.

Viewers are unlikely to notice any change in content, but there remains a threat both to Eutelsat’s satellite portfolio, and its revenues from the UK market.

Eutelsat argues that the agreement with SES is open-ended, pointing to a 1999 joint statement that also created an “interference-free orbital arc” between 16 degrees and 21.5 degrees East.

ASTRA 2E/F/G UK Ku-band spotbeam

ASTRA 2F European Beam

ASTRA 2F West Africa Ku-band beam