The European Commission has selected Inmarsat and Solaris Mobile to provide mobile satellite services across Europe. These could include high-speed internet access, mobile television and radio, and emergency communications. On the day of the announcement, Solaris Mobile revealed that an “anomaly” could affect the S-band payload on the satellite from which it plays to deliver its services.

The selection of the two mobile operators followed a selection process for which four companies submitted proposals, including two American backed bids.

One of the applicants, ICO Global, has previously claimed the right to use the frequencies involved under a prior award by the International Telecommunications Union.

ICO says it is considering its options. “We believe the just-concluded EU process jeopardizes years of international cooperation and coordination that has governed satellite communications worldwide,” commented its acting chief executive Michael Corkery.

The European Commission has allocated the spectrum for the delivery of mobile satellite services across Europe. The frequencies are adjacent to those used for 3G mobile phone services, for which some operators paid billions of pounds.

The successful satellite operators will now each have access to 30MHz of spectrum in the 2GHz S-band to deliver mobile satellite services across Europe for the next 18 years. The successful applicants will have to deploy services within two years and satisfy the commitments they have given in their proposals.

Member states now have to allow the two operators the right to use the S-band frequencies allocated by the European Commission, both for satellite downlinks and for terrestrial repeaters.

“Mobile satellite services have huge potential: they can enable Europeans to access new communication services, particularly in rural and less populated regions. I therefore welcome that we have now cleared the way for the swift launch of these pan-European services,” said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. She said a European market for mobile satellite services “is now becoming a reality”.

Mobile television is among the services that could be provided to handsets and vehicles, as well as other communications, data and navigation services.

One of the issues that has held back the deployment of mobile television services in Europe has been the lack of co-ordinated spectrum across the continent. The European Commission initiative effectively unlocks a large slice of spectrum for use across all the member states.

Although mobile television and radio broadcasting is one possible application, operators will need to establish business models that may include other communications services. They may also need to partner with mobile network operators in order to roll out terrestrial networks to support their satellite transmissions.

Inmarsat, based in London, owns and operates a global satellite network and offers mobile satellite communications services. It aims to offer mobile satellite services across Europe with a satellite called EuropaSat in combination with a terrestrial network.

Solaris Mobile, based in Dublin, is a joint venture between European satellite operators Eutelsat and SES Astra. They launched a satellite with an S-band payload in April. In orbit tests have identified an “anomaly” with the S-band system.

In a statement issued on the same day that the European approval was announced, Solaris Mobile said the satellite manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space, was seeking “to assess the extent of the S-band payload’s capability to provide mobile satellite services to the European marketplace.”

Solaris Mobile said that it remained “confident of its ability to meet the commitments” of its proposal and is “evaluating a range of options”.