At issue are Eutelsat-controlled frequencies at 28 degrees East that SES says it has the rights to use from 2013.
Paris-based Eutelsat says that SES is in breach of the Intersystem Coordination Agreement signed with Eutelsat in 1999 that includes the orbital slots at 28.2 degrees East and 28.5 degrees East.
The 28 degrees slot is used in the UK & Ireland market, principally by BSkyB, but also free-to-air channels on the Freesat platform.
“Eutelsat’s position is that the agreement between SES and Media Broadcast, signed seven years ago, and only disclosed by SES in its release of 1 October 2012, violates the terms agreed in the 1999 Intersystem Coordination Agreement, specifically SES’s commitment to respect Eutelsat’s operations at 28.5 degrees East,” Eutelsat said in a statement.
But in a strongly worded response, SES maintained its rights to use the frequency: “SES strongly disagrees with Eutelsat’s position and will vigorously defend its right to use these frequencies from October 4, 2013 on the basis, among other things, that Eutelsat’s rights to these frequencies will expire on October 3, 2013, that nothing prevents SES from using these frequencies as of October 4, 2013 and that the filings pursuant to which MB’s license for these frequencies was issued by the Bundesnetzagentur have priority under the rules of the 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.
SES says 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).
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.
A spokesman for SES told Broadband TV News that just two-thirds of the frequencies were covered by this scenario. The remainder, he said, were in the hands of Eutelsat.
To complicate matters, SES currently has the right to market part of the Eutelsat capacity under a long-standing agreement with the Luxembourg PTT.
Eutelsat negotiated its frequency rights through Deutsche Telekom, which once operated part of its own Kopernikus fleet at that position, while SES has used the French-owned transmission company TDF owners of the German Media Broadcast that has inherited frequencies from Telekom.
Whatever the outcome there is unlikely to be any direct effect on viewers.