This week ESA is hosting the 7th Operators Review Meeting (ORM) of all the L-band Mobile Satellite Operators in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia. The meeting is taking place at Estec from 28 November to 2 December.
L-band is the main frequency band used by satellite operators for mobile services. It allows operations from relatively small self-contained terminals without need for local infrastructure. It represents therefore the ideal solution for users on the move needing communications in remote areas such as deserts, mountains, oceans and wherever a quick independent communication system is needed.
L-band applications are varied: mobile telephony, closed user networks such as Civil Protection authorities, maritime communications, satellite news gathering (SNG), aeronautical radio-navigation and new applications under definition.
Unfortunately only 33 MHz of spectrum are available for all mobile satellite operators worldwide and associated applications. Therefore 7 years ago it was decided that all operators in ITU Regions 1 and 3 (Europe, Africa, Middle-East, Asia, Oceania) would meet at the end of each year to agree on how to share the L-band frequencies among them for the following year.
Delegates for the ORM meeting 2005
ESA participates in the process to ensure that the mobile satellite payload on ARTEMIS will be allocated enough frequencies to operate. In the future, mobile satellite payloads on AlphaSat will also require a place in the ORM negotiations. Other participants include Inmarsat (UK), Thuraya (UAE), JRANSA (Japan), RSCC (Russia), ACeS (Indonesia), Optus (Australia), and SingTel (Singapore). Being users of the ARTEMIS payload, Telespazio and Eutelsat are providing support to ESA during those negotiations.
Allocation of the L-band spectrum is agreed upon following peer review of individual operators requirements. In parallel each operator must define the mutual compatibility of its services with those of all other operators. Once all requirements have been reviewed and compatibility taken into account, an optimised solution is determined. The scarce availability of frequency is problematic. Since usage is increasing, it becomes more and more challenging to accommodate current and future operator demand.
ESA is hosting the ORM for the first time. Edoardo Marelli, Head of the ESA Frequency Management Office, is chairing the meeting. "As is easy to imagine, these are very difficult meetings, with complex technical and political negotiations required in order to come to a commonly agreed optimised solution. Since these frequencies are used for commercial applications, their availability is a pre-requisite in making a successful business case."
"Unfortunately physical limits mean that not all requirements can be satisfied. But one way or another we have to reach an agreement on how to assign frequencies for 2006, the alternative being a lawless 'wild-west' situation with continuous communication interruptions due to radio interferences between operators. In such a situation, none of us would be able to guarantee any service to our customers."
All images ESA