General Court upholds Inmarsat’s satellite broadcasting authorisation

16 Mar 2021
Anneli Howard KC

The EU General Court dismissed an application brought by ViaSat Inc (“ViaSat2”) for the annulment of various decisions taken the European Commission and/or for the Commission’s failure to act regarding the pan-European authorisation of mobile satellite services on the 2GHz frequency band. Those frequencies were awarded, following a competitive tender, to a UK company, Inmarsat Ventures Ltd (“Inmarsat”), who has launched in-flight satellite broadband services to airplanes and passengers travelling across the European airspace. ViaSat, who is a direct competitor to Inmarsat, has brought litigation in a number of States, including the UK , seeking to set aside Inmarsat’s authorisations.

Viasat’s challenge alleges that Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network (EAN), which dynamically uses its satellite with ground components, is not compatible with the conditions of its spectrum licence. It sought to argue that the Commission was obliged to take steps to revoke the award of the frequencies and to intervene to restrain the national competent authorities in all EU States from granting national authorisations to operate the EAN.

The General Court dismissed all of ViaSat’s arguments. The action for failure to act under Article 265 TFEU was inadmissible since the Commission had responded explaining why it was not obliged to adopt the measures sought. The action for annulment was dismissed since the Commission lacked competence, under the EU regulatory framework established for mobile satellite services, to take the measures requested by ViaSat.

Anneli Howard QC, instructed by Jones Day, acted for Inmarsat in its intervention before the General Court in support of the European Commission.

The judgment is here.