On 29th January 2024, Ofcom published a consultation on the NSLComm’s application for a non-geostationary orbiting (“NGSO”) network licence, to enable their BeetleSat satellite constellation. Comments on the proposal are open until 29th February 2024.
NGSO satellite systems are a revolutionary way of supplying broadband services from space, “using a constellation of satellites in a low or medium Earth orbit”. These satellite systems can potentially provide higher speed connectivity to its uses with low latency service. NGSO satellites work by moving across the sky during an orbit around Earth, so to keep the network operational network servicers deploy a fleet of satellites – “constellations” – to provide continuous service from these altitudes.
The increasing prevalence of NGSO satellite systems represents an important innovation in satellite technology – and a potential breakthrough in connecting the unconnected.
The NGSO network licence application Ofcom has received from NSLComm seeks authorisation to operate user terminals in the UK. The licence would authorise small user satellite dishes that connect via satellites to the internet. Four satellite operators already hold NGSO network licences from OFCOM: Starlink (SpaceX), OneWeb (Eutelsat), Telesat and Mangata Edge Ltd.
NSLComm’s “BeetleSat” system is designed to offer connectivity services to both verticals and end user applications, including aviation, maritime, military SatCom, enterprise and backhaul applications for terrestrial telecommunications networks.
Ofcom considers that the BeetleSat constellation should be able to coexist with operators of existing systems (without causing degradation), with future NGSO systems and with other services (e.g. GSO networks, radio astronomy, and fixed links). If there are any concerns to the contrary, these should be submitted to Ofcom whilst comments on the proposal are open. At the time of writing, NSLComm has not entered into a coordination agreement with any of the licensed system operators in the UK.
Ofcom as a regulator, considers it is essential to preserve competition in the connectivity space. By allowing NSLComm’s application, user terminals could create interference problems with existing NGSO user terminals, or be unable to co-exist with future NGSO systems, thereby weakening competition and ultimately harming consumers. Ofcom’s view is that none of these risks would likely happen. In fact, Ofcom has stated that the BeetleSat system has the potential to provide services that offer further connectivity options to customers in the UK, in addition to those of the four current NGSO network licence holders.
Competitors therefore need to assess the potential harm of NSLComm’s application. If they have any doubts about BeetleSat’s ability not to damage competition, they should submit them to Ofcom.
The material contained in this article is only for general review of the topics covered and does not constitute any legal advice. No legal or business decision should be based on its content.
This article is written in English language. Preiskel & Co LLP is not responsible for any translation of all or part of its content into any language.