Minister: “Key Step To Develop Space Industry”

May 31, 2013

Bermuda’s planned satellite network, called “BermudaSat-1,” commenced operations in April after the EchoStar-6 satellite was moved into Bermuda’s orbital position –  a “key step” to develop Bermuda’s space industry, said Minister of Economic Development Dr Grant Gibbons

Speaking in the House of Assembly this morning [May 31], Dr Gibbons said the Government has “brought Bermuda’s satellite slot into use and has plans for a satellite communication system as part of a wider effort to diversify the economy and develop Bermuda’s skills and economic base.”

“There is a mandatory 90 day waiting period during which the satellite must demonstrate that it is operationally viable,” said Dr Gibbons. “This means, barring any unforeseen problems, that by mid-July, the satellite deployed at 96.2˚ WL will become a commercially viable asset.

“With this, BermudaSat-1 will receive international recognition and protection through the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union [ITU].

“This undertaking allows Bermuda to participate in the more than $80 billion-a-year broadcast satellite industry [television, radio and broadband], and positions it as a broadcast hub for the region.

“While the current plans are to offer maritime services and broadcast services in the Caribbean and Latin America, a specialized, more powerful satellite could also be built to expand services from this orbital position.”

Dr Gibbons’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker, I wish to update this Honourable House on recent significant developments in our efforts to create a Bermuda satellite network.

On April 13th 2013, Bermuda’s planned satellite network, known as BermudaSat-1, commenced operations after the EchoStar-6 satellite was moved into Bermuda’s orbital position located at 96.2° WL. This was the key step in a multi-year effort to develop Bermuda’s space industry.

Mr Speaker, this House will be aware that in 1983, as a result of the vision of the late Honourable Member Dr John Stubbs, the International Telecommunications Union [ITU] allocated four satellite orbital slots to Bermuda.

Three of these are for Broadcasting Satellite Services for Direct to Home reception. They are located at 31˚ West Longitude [WL], 92.3˚WL and at 96.2˚WL. The fourth slot, located at 37.1˚WL, is for Fixed Satellite Services for commercial communications. The orbital slots located at 96.2˚WL and 31˚WL are exclusive to Bermuda. 37.1˚WL is also exclusive to Bermuda.92.3˚WL is shared with several Caribbean countries.

In 2004 satellite consulting firm Access Partnership advised the Government that the satellite orbital slot, located at 96.2˚WL was the most commercially viable slot.In April 2005, through the UK regulator OfCom,Government provided an application to the ITU to activate the 96.2˚WL slot.

Mr Speaker, once an application is made, under international rules, a country then has eight years to bring its satellite network into use. In practical terms, this means that a fully operational satellite must be moved into that orbital slot and fulfil certain ITU requirements. Failure to“bring into use” within the eight year window results in the expiration of the allowed period and the loss of any right to retain or commercialise the slot.

Mr Speaker, the deadline for Bermuda was April 14th 2013.

Mr Speaker, Honourable members will recall that a previous attempt to bring this slot into use was hampered by an application submitted to OfCom by the Isle of Man for a similar orbital location.

In April 2008 Ofcom informed Bermuda that it would finalize the Isle of Man application at the ITU. Bermuda was opposed to this decision and applied for a judicial review. Although the High Court ruled in favour of Ofcom, in 2010, the Isle of Man application expired, unused.

Mr Speaker, SES, the world’s second largest operator, has been working with Bermuda to identify a suitable in-orbit satellite. In February of this year, SES did, indeed identify an in-orbit asset and this satellite is EchoStar VI.

Mr Speaker, I am delighted to inform this House that on April 13th 2013, Bermuda’s planned satellite network, known as BermudaSat-1, commenced operations after the EchoStar VI satellite was successfully moved into Bermuda’s orbital position located at 96.2° WL. EchoStar VI is owned and operated by EchoStar Satellite Operating Company under license from the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The EchoStar Corporation, headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, is a premier global provider of satellite operations and video delivery solutions.

Despite many prior years of frustration and considerable expense, this Government has now brought Bermuda’s satellite slot “into use” and has plans for a satellite communication system as part of a wider effort to diversify the economy and develop Bermuda’s skills and economic base.

There is a mandatory 90 day waiting period during which the satellite must demonstrate that it is operationally viable. This means, barring any unforeseen problems, that by mid-July, the satellite deployed at 96.2˚ WL will become a commercially viable asset.

With this, BermudaSat-1 will receive international recognition and protection through the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union [ITU]. This undertaking allows Bermuda to participate in the more than $80 billion-a-year broadcast satellite industry [television, radio and broadband], and positions it as a broadcast hub for the region.

While the current plans are to offer maritime services and broadcast services in the Caribbean and Latin America, a specialized, more powerful satellite could also be built to expand services from this orbital position.

Mr Speaker, Bermuda’s licensing regime for satellite networks is defined in the Satellite Network Notification and Coordination Regulations 2007 and assigns the Minister responsible for Telecommunications as the licensing authority for these networks.

To this end, I have issued two of the three Certificates, which are prerequisites for a full operating license and work is progressing on finalizing the remaining Certificate, as well as the license. The final document will be a separate agreement which will define the commercial terms by which Bermuda will allow SES to use its orbital asset.

In order to initiate the “Bringing into Use” activity which is an ITU requirement to ensure that BermudaSat-1 does not expire, EchoStar was required to obtain the approval of the FCC to relocate EchoStar VI from its previous location at 77˚WL to its current location at 96.2˚WL.

Mr Speaker, despite the last minute objections of a Dutch registered network, the FCC gave their approval on April 1st 2013. EchoStar VI arrived at its new orbital residence on April 13th 2013, one day before the deadline.

Mr Speaker,it would be remiss of me not to express sincere gratitude for the diligent work of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Department of Telecommunications, Government House and the Assistant Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for Policy.

Similarly, thanks must go out to the UK Embassy in Washington, DC and OfCom for their numerous submissions and their sustained and coordinated lobbying effort on Bermuda’s behalf.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Vote for Me says:

    Definitely good for Bermuda. When former Ministers Roban and Bean talked about it however, they were lampooned as talking ‘pie in the sky’.

  2. Bermewjan says:

    Well done PLP for making this happen for Bermuda. OBA please continue this good work of diversifying Bermuda’s economy.

  3. Sandy Bottom says:

    After years of empty talk on this suddenly there is action and there are results. It’s nice to see it.

    • mixitup says:

      So the argument that “They’ve been in Gov’t only 5 months, it will take years to fix this and fix that” only applies when it’s convenient I see. SMH.. Thank you PLP for aggressively persuing this avenue of diversification and allowing the OBA to JUST have to sign on the dotted line.

      • media says:

        Of course this would never have been possible without Dr Stubbs getting the slots allocated back in the early 80′s in the first place. So in fact all three, the UBP, PLP & OBA played a part in the outcome. Well done, hopefully we will benefit considerably from it over the next decade. I would like to get a ballpark of what we might get from it. Probably not the 3rd pillar that was eluded to before.

      • Sandy Bottom says:

        Aggressively pursuing it? With no results at all, until competent people get in power. That’s how it looks to me, anyway.

        • mixitup says:

          “With no results at all, until competent people get in power. That’s how it looks to me, anyway.”

          Of course it does

  4. Navin Johnson says:

    Mixitup do you call 8 years “aggressively pursuing” or are you being facetious ?

    • mixitup says:

      You obviously have done little research on what it took to get to this point. But of course you haven’t, your work on Bernews is just to mouth off where you think it fits and like Rhonda, Betty and company are to you, you are to a whole lotta others my dear.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      Aggressively attending a 2008 shuttle launch and 2009 symposium in Paris. Yeah, any minute now they’d have been getting these same results.

  5. Noel Ashford says:

    Umm guys… Bermuda doesn’t own Echostar 6, nor any other dish network satellites that Cablevisiion happily pirates and resells… there are only certain #’s of DBS (direct broadcast service) slots for US Conus (Continental US)… that happens to be one for the east coast. Echostar / Dish network moving that there is zero to do with either government and they are just parking it there for now… It just means that our slot became viable for usage by a US carrier. Neither gov should take credit for it being rented / leased / used finally.

  6. Graeme Outerbridge says:

    Well done Grant and past civil servants that brought this Stubbs dream into reality. We may be renting our slot out right now…hope we eventually can get our own Bird up there too^^ Long time coming..happened on the last day^^