Satellite Bulletin - April 2016: Ofcom Publishes Update to the Procedures for the Management of Satellite Filings

Ofcom have published amendments to the guidance which is set out in their Procedures for the Management of Satellite Filings, originally published in March 2007.

The Procedures published on 30 March 2016, set out the mechanism by which Ofcom, as the UK national administration to the ITU, manage satellite filings on behalf of companies and other entities registered in the UK, the British Overseas Territories, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Due diligence requirements to ensure efficient use of orbital assignments and frequencies

Ofcom are a thought leader in actions to secure and deliver the efficient use of orbital assignments and radio frequencies. Many of the main amendments to the Procedures expectedly concern the obligation on applicants to evidence that their satellite project can be realised effectively within the relevant regulatory deadlines and with the relevant technical and operational characteristics.

To this end, Ofcom have specified additional management and technical due diligence deliverables which must be provided by any applicant at each stage of the filing process, including evidence for the construction or use of at least one telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) Earth station and at least one feeder-link Earth station, and evidence of the authorisation to operate such stations. Ofcom state that they require only those deliverables that are readily available to the applicant however.

An applicant must promptly inform Ofcom of any changes to its business plan that may affect the project milestones or technical parameters of the filing and the six-monthly reports are now replaced with yearly more detailed reports.

Other amendments

From 30 March 2016, under certain conditions, Ofcom may allow the notification of filings where coordination with UK and/or non-UK satellite networks is not complete. Ofcom may also allow the transfer of ownership and control of a filing at Advanced Publication Information (API) stage.

Ofcom’s decision as to whether to notify a satellite filing for a NGSO system will depend on the number of satellites deployed: assessing the number deployed against the minimum number required to provide the intended service specified in the business plan.

Transparency and clarity

The amended Procedures came into effect on 30 March 2016, and apply to existing and new filings.

In its stakeholder meeting explaining the effect of the new Procedures, Ofcom offered flexibility in their implementation, which may reasonably reflect the particular commercial or financial circumstances of an applicant. It will be interesting to see how Ofcom apply this in practice while ensuring regulatory clarity - also bearing in mind that Ofcom is subject to the "growth duty" to support the UK space industry, which it now seems to be engaging with more than ever.

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