The companies accuse Inmarsat of distorting competition. Inmarsat is deploying the ATG system bringing Wi-Fi into airplanes mostly by land-based terminals, using frequencies that have been allocated to a completely different purpose.
Viasat has now started legal proceedings against the European Commission. According to the offical filing “The Commission has unlawfully failed to decide that the use of 2 GHz mobile satellite service spectrum on a primarily terrestrial-based network constitutes a fundamental change in the use of the 2 GHz Band that is harmonised and tendered at EU level through a Union selection procedure. The Commission should have taken responsibility and acted to adopt a decision to prevent NRAs from authorising Inmarsat to use the 2 GHz Band primarily for Air-To-Ground purposes, instead of primarily for a mobile satellite services (‘MSS’) satellite network in accordance with the EU’s MSS decisions.”
The filing goes on to say “The Commission has a duty to exercise its powers in order to prevent the risk of fragmentation of the internal market for pan-European mobile satellite services that provide universal connectivity, which would be caused if certain national regulatory authorities (‘NRAs’) decide — on their own motions — to allow a specific company to use the 2 GHz Band for a new purpose. Indeed, the failure to exercise this duty in response to the applicant’s request to act Letter and the requests for guidance by NRAs have increased the risk that some Member States authorise use of the 2 GHz Band for new purposes.”
Meanwhile, Inmarsat launched the required satellite last week and plans to switch on the Continent-wide European Aviation Network (EAN) towards the end of the year, after it gains clearance from national telecoms regulators.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat chief executive, dismissed the legal challenges, saying the companies were “just making mischief”.
“We are very confident about our licence and have issued a cease and desist order on them,” Pearce said. “We take very seriously the damage to our reputation this could cause.
“They have made the same argument to regulator after regulator and each time their claim has been refused – they are just trying to slow us down. We have licences in all locations we need to commence operations and we are nearly there with building the ground stations – we are confident everything will be done in time.”