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Commission proposes action in the field of satellite personal communications services (S-PCS)

On a proposal from Commissioner Martin Bangemann, the European Commission has adopted a "Proposal to European Parliament and Council for an action at EU level in the field of satellite personal communications services". The proposal could be adopted by the European Parliament ...
On a proposal from Commissioner Martin Bangemann, the European Commission has adopted a "Proposal to European Parliament and Council for an action at EU level in the field of satellite personal communications services". The proposal could be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council by the middle of 1996.

Satellite personal communications services will provide data and/or voice (and in the future also video) services into a fixed or portable personal terminal, approximately the size of today's terrestrial cellular phones, by means of new types of satellite systems, such as Low Earth Orbit(LEO). These systems will enable global interconnectivity and mobility via the use of personal communications equipment as a complement to world-wide mobile terrestrial networks (in particular GSM).

This represents a significant opportunity for the European mobile and space industry, in terms of both equipment and services in satellite PCS. Actual European industry contracts are valued at about ECU 500 million, while potential future contracts are estimated to reach tens of billions of ECU, especially in handsets.

In view of the limited availability of frequency spectrum resources and the number of announced satellite PCS systems, there is a need to reach a coordinated world-wide selection of satellite PCS systems taking due account of the economic, industrial and social implications of the proposed services.

The operation of the satellite systems is subject to two inter-related sets of issues:

- Formal notification to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) for the purpose of technical frequency coordination;
- Selection and authorization of the systems in nations where the space segment capacity is to be used.

Successful completion of the ITU frequency coordination process does not provide any guarantee that the satellite system will indeed be authorized to provided space segment capacity for use in a particular country.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has considered six applications. In early 1995, the FCC issued orders selecting and licensing three of the proposed concepts for global service provision, namely Globalstar, Iridium, and Odyssey.

Regulatory measures, including licensing, in other parts of the world are yet to be taken although many countries are evaluating the issues arising from the introduction of these services. In the EU, the Commission has undertaken a number of initiatives. In September 1992, a hearing was organized at which the industry presented their plans to interested regulators, industry and users. In its Communication on Satellite Personal Communications of April 1993, the Commission underlined the strategic importance of satellite personal communications systems and services.

There needs, however, to be compatibility between any European spectrum usage and usage in other regions of the world. The spectrum is, to some extent, controlled by those who lay first claim on the spectrum in the context of the ITU procedures and there is a danger that, unless precautions are taken, systems capable of providing service in Europe may be selected by a process outside European jurisdiction. A European approach for licensing is, therefore, urgently needed in order to use the limited frequency resources most efficiently and to strengthen the European position in this area.

The objectives of Community action shall be to ensure, within a period of three years:

- Selection of satellite PCS space segment operators;
- The adoption of common conditions to be attached to authorizations for satellite PCS space segment operators;
- Harmonization of conditions for authorizations;
- The establishment of a dialogue and, where appropriate, negotiations between the EU and third countries with the aim of establishing international cooperation in order to promote development of satellite personal communications services and remove the obstacles to their development.

As a first step, the Commission has decided to publish a "call-for-information" in the Official Journal of the European Communities. This is addressed to prospective consortia and other relevant industry bodies planning to provide satellite personal communications services and/or equipment in the EU. Through this "call-for-information", the Commission is hoping to receive detailed information on all relevant matters which may assist the definition of the scope and modalities of a selection and authorization process, including suitable criteria for selection and conditions for authorization.

The Commission may ask the European standardization bodies, such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and CEN/CENELEC, as well as the European Radio Committee (ERC), and the European Committee for Telecommunications Regulatory Affairs (ECTRA), to study the necessary technical criteria and conditions.

Finally the Commission, who shall be assisted by an advisory and a regulatory Committee shall adopt Decisions on:

- Common conditions to be attached to the authorizations of the selected satellite personal communications space segment operators;
- Harmonized conditions for the authorization of providers of satellite personal communications services, gateway operators, and, if required, for the circulation and use of equipment;
- Any other measures aimed at facilitating the development of satellite personal communications services.

With regard to international aspects, the Commission is monitoring developments outside the Community and consults with third countries on the coordinated introduction of satellite personal communications at a global level. The Commission will also initiate negotiations with third countries where appropriate and as required. The principle of Community action will be aimed at ensuring effective and comparable access for Community organizations in all markets.

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