The European Commission has confirmed that all four operators that applied to deliver mobile satellite services across Europe will go forward to the next stages of the selection procedure. Ironically, one of the candidates has questioned the right of the commission to appoint such services. Meanwhile, in China the roll out of mobile multimedia services is the subject of political wrangling.

The European Commission confirmed the four qualifying candidates to provide a pan-European multimedia mobile satellite service to be ICO Satellite, Inmarsat Ventures, Solaris Mobile and TerreStar Europe.

They will firstly be assessed on their technical and commercial ability to launch their systems within the next two years. They will then be considered under a number of criteria, including the speed at which countries will be covered, including rural areas, the range of services, the number of users to be served, spectrum efficiency and the capacity of the system to fulfil public policy objectives.

The European Commission aims to encourage a single European market for mobile satellite services through a single selection procedure. It proposes to allow companies to offer services throughout Europe using spectrum in the 2GHz S-band, which sits alongside frequencies already used across Europe for 3G mobile services.

One of the applicants, ICO Global, has previously laid claim to use of part of the S-band frequencies under a prior award by the International Telecommunications Union. ICO Global has begun legal proceedings against the European Parliament decision to allocate the spectrum, arguing that the decision should be annulled. In the event that ICO Global were to succeed in its legal argument, its own candidacy and that that of the other applicants in the beauty contest would presumably be invalidated.

The claim could cast a cloud over the process, although the European Commission says that “without prejudice to the legal prerogatives of the Court, it is not expected that the request would impact the timing of the selection process.”

Solaris Mobile, a joint venture between European satellite operators Eutelsat and SES Astra, is seen by some as a front runner, as it has a payload ready for launch in early 2009. The company plans to provide television, video, radio and two-way communication to a variety of handheld and in-vehicle mobile devices. Its services will be mainly aimed at broadcasters, telecommunications companies and the motor industry.

Steve Maine, the chief executive of Solaris Mobile, said he welcomed the transparent process for the award of the pan-European satellite licence.

“We would especially support the commitment of the European Commission to award procedure guidelines that are public, transparent and defined in advance, as well as the aspiration that full interoperability and EU-wide mobile TV roaming will be important considerations for mobile TV service providers,” he said. “With a focus on clear guidelines and light regulation, the European Commission is clearly supportive of the rapid roll out of mobile TV across Europe, and this is good news for companies such as Solaris Mobile.”

All 120 companies that took part in a tender by the China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting have secured contracts for receivers for the CMMB network, reports Interfax China.

More than 400 mobile terminal models were submitted, including phone handsets, GPS devices, USB dongles and MP4 players. Chinese companies dominated the tender, with three international companies winning contracts: Samsung, LG and UTStarcom. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, SARFT, has said it will purchase a million mobile devices.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology supports the rival Terrestrial Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting standard, T-MMB. The ministry has so far prevented CMMB devices from reaching the open market. It maintains that all mobile phones sold in China need to be granted mobile access licences. It has not granted licences to any CMMB compatible handsets, including the 40,000 mobile phones that China Mobile made available to officials and delegates at the Beijing Olympics.

A full report on Satellite to Mobile: Television and radio broadcasting, outlining the prospects for such services, is available from informitv.