ICO makes 4 bidders for S-Band

ICO Global Communications (ICOGC), the follow-on company to the once bankrupt ICO, has filed a bandwidth application to run Europe’s mobile satellite services. The application seeks access to the 2 GHz S-Band frequencies.

Bids for the frequencies are already on the table from Solaris Mobile (the SES Astra and Eutelsat j-v) and TerreStar (see our report on Oct 8). London-based Inmarsat is also bidding.

The overall process is called the European S-band Application Process (ESAP) and ICO is now the fourth bidder for some or all of this 30 megahertz slice of satellite bandwidth. Astra/Eutelsat’s Solaris Mobile is one bidder, TerreStar another, as is Inmarsat (see below).

The original ICO filed for bankruptcy protection back in 1999, and emerged in 2000 with cellular millionaire Craig McCaw as chairman. ICOGC is adequately funded, but it has a large slice of litigation up its sleeve against Boeing alleging fraud, breach of contract and other complaints over $2bn paid to (originally Hughes, but now) Boeing to build its first 12-satellite orbiting constellation.

One satellite blew up on launch, and only one other made it to orbit. The case has been at trial for some time and a decision is due any day now. ICOGC is suing for $2bn including interest plus costs and punitive damages.

Then there’s Inmarsat which announced its formal bid back in August. It is mounting its effort with a satellite from Thales Alenia Space (and ILS as a launch partner). The "EuropaSat" satellite is intended to provide mobile broadcast and two-way telecommunications services in the S-Band throughout Europe.

Thales Alenia Space will commence work on the satellite design, based on its Spacebus 4000C3 platform and develop it through the Critical Design Review to support a fully complaint application for a EC-wide S-band spectrum allocation by Inmarsat, under the recently-announced ESAP.

The ESAP bidding process opened on August 7, and the EU is on record as saying that in the event there are too many applicants for the available S-band spectrum, European regulators will judge proposals by whether they offer the best use of the spectrum, whether they meet European Union policy objectives, provide pan-European coverage and offer benefits to consumers.