Inmarsat agrees to move ground station from the Netherlands

TAMPA, Florida — Inmarsat is asking Greece for permission to move a ground station there from the Netherlands, which wants to sell the C-band spectrum the site uses for maritime security services to 5G wireless operators.

The British satellite operator previously argued that moving from the northern Dutch village of Burum was not necessary because its services could potentially share the spectrum band with 5G operators.

However, the company said on May 13 that it is working with authorities in Greece to obtain a permit following recommendations from an external commission appointed by the Dutch government to find ways to use the 3.5 GHz frequencies of the operator without interfering with the security services.

Inmarsat had taken the Dutch government to court last year over an initial plan to sell the 3.5 GHz band it partially uses for these emergency services to 5G operators to use from September 2022.

A Dutch administrative judge in June this spectrum auction plan suspendedand ordered Inmarsat and the government to find a solution to release the frequencies for 5G that would not affect security services.

According to the external advisory committee, Inmarsat should move from Burum, but part of the operator’s 3.5 GHz spectrum should only go to wireless operators if the operator sets up a ground station elsewhere.

Their report was presented to the government on May 12 to recommend moving the ground station to Greece and auctioning the 3.5GHz frequencies so that they are available to mobile operators by December 2023.

If Inmarsat has not moved its ground station by then, it should be allowed to continue operating the site, according to the report, but with a smaller 80MHz strip of spectrum.

The Inmarsat Maritime Safety Earth Station in Burum currently uses 126 MHz of the band.

The frequencies are used for a mix of commercial and security services that cannot be disconnected, according to Inmarsat spokesman Matthew Knowles.

“Throughout this process, Inmarsat has sought to protect these vital security services that millions of people rely on every day, while providing a practical way to get 5G mobile telecommunications up and running in the Netherlands quickly,” said Inmarsat Chief Operating Officer Jason Smith. in a statement. an emailed statement.

Smith added: “Inmarsat will continue to operate in Burum’s current spectrum before moving operations – but not people – to a new location outside the Netherlands once a license is confirmed elsewhere. Inmarsat is working with the authorities in Greece to obtain a license to operate there.”

The London-based company has another ground station in this part of the world in Fucino in central Italy, but the company says it needs two stations in this European region for redundancy because its security services require high levels of reliability and performance.

Inmarsat, that is in the process Sold to US-based satellite operator Viasat for $7.3 billion, it provides users with free maritime safety capabilities through services that stem from its history as an intergovernmental organization founded in the 1970s.

The operator has ground stations in nine countries that provide security services worldwide: Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, France, Japan, India, Russia, China and Vietnam.

Harald Hanemaaijer, spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, said that the Dutch government will respond to the advice “before the summer” in a letter to the House of Representatives.

“Based on the advice, the Ministry of Economic Affairs will prepare a new decision to amend the so-called National Frequency Plan (NFP) and in the meantime will continue to consult with the satellite company about facilitating the intended move to Greece. ”, said the Dutch government in a press release of May 12

The commission says its recommendations have the support of mobile network operators, in addition to Inmarsat.

After other European countries, the Netherlands sold its first batch of 5G-capable spectrum in the 700 MHz, 1.4 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands in 2020.

The Netherlands joins many other countries around the world that have recently taken steps to sell satellite C band frequencies to boost 5G services.

The US raised more than $81 billion last year by auctioning off some of the C-band spectrum — Intelsat, SES, and other satellite operators in the country are still working to clean up all the frequencies sold for terrestrial use.

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