Inmarsat dismisses EC court challenge over EAN by its rivals

An LTE ground station for the EAN. Image: Deutsche Telekom.
An LTE ground station for the EAN. Image: Deutsche Telekom.

Inmarsat says that ViaSat’s court challenge surrounding its European Aviation Network air-to-ground inflight connectivity service is intended “solely to undermine its legitimate business interests”.

It adds that ViaSat is trying to “strengthen its own position in the competitive tender processes that are currently under way with European airlines”.

ViaSat, Eutelsat and Panasonic have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice seeking an injunction on the proposed EAN service.

They say Inmarsat is violating the terms of its license by “passing off a terrestrial network as a satellite system”.

But Inmarsat says the claim lodged by ViaSat, Inc. against the European Commission is “based on arguments previously put forward to the European Commission and national regulators without success”.

In a new statement Inmarsat says it considers the ViaSat assertions “to be entirely without merit”.

“We are ready to intervene in this process and evidence the correctness of the Inmarsat use of the 2 GHz spectrum in accordance with the MSS Decision,” it said.

EAN – European Aviation Network

“Despite attempts ‘…to slow this thing down’ – a public reference to EAN made by ViaSat, Inc.’s CEO [Space Intel Report – 20 June 2017] – the European Aviation Network remains on schedule to commence commercial services this year.”

But Rick Baldridge, President and COO, ViaSat, said: “Spectrum is an exclusive asset and unique resource.

“ViaSat believes Inmarsat violated Pan-European government authority by seeking to substitute its own judgement for that of the European authorities and, in effect, unilaterally re-write the original license it was granted under the ‘MSS Decision’.

“Allowing Inmarsat to keep this valuable spectrum resource for their European Aviation Network (EAN) terrestrial service results in a massive public subsidy to one company; which gives Inmarsat a natural monopoly with major Pan-European business advantages based on unfair competition.”

ViaSat, Eutelsat and Panasonic have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice seeking an injunction on the proposed service.

Inmarsat’s partner, Deutsche Telekom, is currently deploying a network of 300 air-to-ground (ATG) towers in Europe to provide inflight connectivity for EAN, which is operating under a European Commission license.

IAG Short-Haul

The system, which has been adopted by IAG for its European short-haul aircraft, will complement Inmarsat’s other broadband wholly satellite-based inflight connectivity system – GX Aviation.

Inmarsat’s rivals claim the company has distorted the basis upon which its licence was originally granted in 2009. They say the S-Band radio spectrum granted was supposed to be used for rural satellite broadband, and that most of the inflight connections will be from stations on the ground.

Inmarsat said the 300 Deutsche Telekom LTE-based ground stations will provide the air-to-ground connection to aircraft and the satellite will provide coverage over water and in regions where it has been difficult to install the ATG network.

Inmarsat says: “The European Aviation Network (EAN) is an example of what pan-European cooperation can achieve.

“It is based upon the visionary and unique commercial and technological opportunity created by the European Union Institutions (Parliament and Council) and effectively implemented by the European Commission’s DG CONNECT, which was subsequently applied by Member State telecoms regulators.

“It is being delivered through a partnership of major European companies, including Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Thales Alenia Space, Thales Aviation, Cobham, Arianespace, Inmarsat and many others.

“EAN is a uniquely powerful, reliable and seamless inflight Internet service that will provide world-class connectivity to Europe’s 500 million airline passengers.

“At the same time, it is a creating a new model for aviation connectivity; one that places Europe at the technological forefront of this rapidly expanding market opportunity.”

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