Communications Satellite Corp. said yesterday it wants to restructure ownership of the satellite earth stations used by Intelsat, the international communications consortium, to fit the satellite communications market and Comsat's business strategy better.
The Intelsat system now carries roughly two-thirds of the world's international telephone traffic and virtually all international television transmissions.
The plan also could open the way for building non-Comsat earth stations to send and receive signals to Intelsat, which is now monopolized by Comsat, the only American company in Intelsat. But Comsat officials said that the high cost of building earth stations and competitive factors would minimize the possibility of competition.
The proposal, filed with the Federal Communications Commission, affects the seven earth stations, located from Maine to Guam, that are the reception points for Intelsat's satellite system.
Comsat owns half of each earth station and, in most cases, operates the facilities. The other half of each is owned by varying combinations of customers of satellite services, including American Telephone & Telegraph Co., RCA Corp., and ITT Corp. Comsat and its partners make up an FCC-mandated ownership group known as the Earth Station Ownership Committee (ESOC).
The plan would replace the present pooled ownership between Comsat and various carriers using the services of the stations with a scheme that would apportion ownership of the stations according to the carriers' needs.
The FCC has been reviewing earth-station policy for the past couple of years. The new system could go into effect in about three years, Comsat said.
Comsat asked the FCC to put into effect immediately the first phase of the program, which would allow it to begin negotiations with its partners over who should own what at each earth station. Comsat officials said they have discussed the proposal with the company's partners, who they said had no immediate objections to the plan.
Comsat officials said at a press conference that as the communications business has become more and more competitive, the other partners have occasionally bickered among themselves about being forced to pay, under the pooled ownership arrangement, for equipment or improvements that would benefit one partner more than others.
Under its proposal, Comsat would provide satellite service and antenna facilities, plus any ground equipment that the carriers did not feel they could provide economically themselves.
Comsat's rate system would be adjusted to reflect the shift to a greater emphasis on the "space segment" of satellite communications. The plan, Comsat officials said, would more clearly define the company's role as a "wholesale" supplier of earth-station services to "retail" customers--the carriers.
The plan fits a desire by Comsat to concentrate more on satellite services, sources said.