Claiming that a private transAtlantic satellite network would threaten the integrity of Intelsat's global system, an Intelsat spokesman said the international telecommunications consortium would look unfavorably on an attempt by a local firm to enter the international market.
Orion Satellite Corp. is seeking permission to build and launch two satellites over the Atlantic to provide transponders for multinational corporations, video networks and other entities wanting their own private network between the United States and Europe. The application is the first filed with the Federal Communications Commission that raises the possibility of direct competition with Intelsat.
"Based on the information we have on Orion ," said Joseph Pelton, executive assistant to Intelsat's director general, "it would be in violation of the Intelsat Treaties."
Article XIV of the Intelsat Treaty states that international satellite networks may not be created if they create potential technical or financial harms to Intelsat.
Pelton's comments were made at an informal news conference at the Intelsat offices. He said that Intelsat has no plans to file a statement with the FCC regarding the application. However, Pelton said, Intelsat may file comments with the State Department should the commission approve Orion's application.
"We would not suggest that the United States contravene any treaty obligation," said Orion President Thomas K. McKnight, "and, of course, our proposal does not do so. We are a private system designed to fulfill unique user needs that are not, cannot and should not be met by Intelsat." McKnight says Orion is being positioned to complement Intelsat rather than compete with it.
However, Intelsat's Pelton argued that Intelsat already offers many of the services Orion hopes to provide. "We are already providing six transponders for video purposes," Pelton said, "and we have plans for nine more in the next two years."
Pelton also said that Intelsat will spend roughly $50 million in the near future to expand its appeal to businesses. "We will have more than adequate capacity for foreseen demand," he says.
Intelsat, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, is a consortium of 109 member companies that operates a global satellite system accounting for two-thirds of the world's international telephone traffic and virtually all international television transmissions.
The Orion petition, in effect, challenges the FCC to apply the same kind of deregulatory philosophy it has exercised domestically to the international sphere. The commission has accepted the petition but has not set a date for action on it.