ICO to challenge EU over S-Band

Chris Forrester

Last week the European Commission issued potentially highly valuable licences to operate Europe-wide S-Band frequencies to two European satellite operators: Solaris Mobile and Inmarsat. Both are based in Europe. Two other applicants failed in their bids for capacity. Now one is to sue, and the result could be bloody.

Virginia-based ICO Global Communications says it will lodge a legal challenge. The basis for the company’s argument is that the EU failed to take into account a legal squabble that was taking place between ICO and Boeing that prevented ICO from filing its official application for the S-Band licences.

“We believe the just-concluded EU process jeopardizes years of international cooperation and coordination that has governed satellite communications worldwide. ICO will continue assessing its options in defending its international legal rights,” said ICO CEO Michael Corkery, in a statement. “ICO has spent years clearing the S-band worldwide, has an operational satellite using this frequency band and is registered in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Master International Frequency Register (MIFR),” the statement continued.

The statement added: “ICO is challenging this process, having initiated legal proceedings in September 2008 in the European Court of First Instance seeking the annulment of Decision No. 626/2008/EC of the European Parliament. ICO contends that the Decision is illegal and should be annulled pursuant to Articles 230 and 231 of the Treaty establishing the European Community. As these legal proceedings had not been completed by the October 2008 deadline to submit applications to the EC to provide MSS, ICO Satellite Limited filed an application with the EC as called for in the above mentioned Decision, without prejudice, pending the outcome of the proceedings in the European Court of First Instance.”

ICO certainly has a record of patient and persistent litigation. It recently won a massive $603m in costs and punitive damages from Boeing in an action that had been running for some years.