In the middle of the Atlantic, the crew of a ship fights in the storm. Through Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) her Inmarsat contact the authorities. In a short time, these communications will be through Greece, as the satellite ground stations of the company that manages the system will relocate in our country. After reaching an agreement with the Ministry of Digital Governance and the National Telecommunications and Postal Commission (EETT), the British telecommunications company Inmarsat will move two of its satellite earth stations from Boorum in the Netherlands to its satellite centers OTE at Thermopylae and Nemea.
The procedures have already started and, according to well-informed sources who spoke to “THEMA”, the relocation is expected to be completed by beginning of 2024, while the positives include the fact that the company has pledged not to transfer staff from the Netherlands, which means new jobs will be created here. It had been preceded by feverish negotiations between him Minister of Digital Governance Dimitris Papastergiou with the Dutch Minister of Finance and Climate Policy Miki Andriansens and the heads of the British giant, with the agreement including the relocation of two terrestrial satellite stations to Greece (one in Thermopylae and one in Nemea) and their operation for five years, with an option to renew for another five years, if the European legislation.
Window of opportunity
The Greek government has smelled the opportunity to attract the investment of the British giant, which was recently acquired instead 7 billion dollars by US-based Viasat when it was informed that the company would be looking for a ground station relocation site to ensure the uninterrupted operation of its Alphasat and Inmarsat-4F2 satellites as the Dutch government plans to auction 3.5 GHz spectrum for applications 5G. Let us note here that the simultaneous use of spectrum for 5G applications and satellite services is not possible due to the interference created in the terrestrial satellite system.
With rapid procedures, the Ministry of Digital Governance, after the first discussions with the other two sides (Inmarsat and the Dutch government), agreed with EETT on the licensing conditions of the stations, and in particular the duration of use of the radio spectrum in the 3.5 band GHz. Thus, the way was wide open to finalize the agreement for the relocation of the two terrestrial satellite stations – which was signed – as they will operate at 3.5 GHz (downlink – Space to Earth) and 6.5 GHz (uplink link – Earth to Space). According to the agreement, they will have authorized for five years, renewable for a further five, provided that no further restrictions have arisen in the 3.5 GHz band at European or international level.
The whole process, however, had all the elements to succeed. On the one hand, Inmarsat does not come to a foreigner for the same place. On the contrary, it has a long-standing presence in the Greek market through Inmarsat Hellas. Headquartered in Nemea, the Greek subsidiary of the space giant has already been operating installed ground satellite stations at the OTE satellite center in the same area since 2012. From there, after all, the Global Express and Inmarsat S-band satellites (which are used by the European Aviation Network, i.e. the European Civil Aviation Network) are controlled.
At the same time, Mr. Papastergiou and Ms. Andriansens worked closely together, setting a tangible example across Europe of the consistency and commitment required to deliver the pivotal project of relocating Inmarsat’s Global Maritime Risk and Safety System Gateway from the Netherlands’ Burum in Thermopylae, where the OTE satellite center is located. Mr. Papastergiou constantly confirmed the commitment of Greece to ensure the continuous supply of reliable and high standards GMDSS services. Thus, the cooperation between Greece, represented by EETT, and Inmarsat is proof of the common goal of securing shipping through advanced satellite communication. Specifically, it was signed through EETT and Inmarsat five year contractwith the possibility of extension for another five years, within the regulatory framework set, of course, by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R).
The Greek side also addressed the concerns expressed about possible interference with satellite services. This has been done by taking significant measures to reduce this risk, as EETT has undertaken and actively protects the integrity of satellite services by carefully monitoring interference levels. In addition, his successful auction spectrum C for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) – 5G services included a strict condition that no interference be caused to satellite services. This measure ensures that there will be no interference or disruption to the satellite services provided by Inmarsat.
In closing, the letters exchanged between Greece and the Netherlands underline the strong support for Inmarsat’s initiative and their commitment to ensuring that satellite communications run smoothly. And here Greece, after the negotiations, had the advantage as our country has licensed 5G with the strict limitation that the providers of 5G applications will undertake all the necessary protection measures for the satellite stations operating at the OTE satellite centers in Thermopylae and Nemea. In addition, the OTE centers are located outside settlements and the topography of these areas already provides a level of protection against interference. Thus, Inmarsat in collaboration with OTE chose Thermopylae for its next business step and the completion of the relevant tests.
New job positions
Now, when the installation of the two new satellite ground stations is completed in 2024, this is expected to further enhance the activities of the satellite center in Thermopylae and create new job positions to support their operation and maintenance.
With digital connectivity being the Achilles heel of international communications, in the field of international shipping and maritime security the major issue today is ensuring lightning-fast and uninterrupted operation of satellite services. Today, Inmarsat is a world-renowned satellite telecommunications company based in London that provides telephone and data services via satellite to users on the move (e.g. on ships, in airplanes) or in remote areas where there are no terrestrial telecommunications networks. The company’s constantly expanding satellite network consists of 15 geostationary telecommunication satellitesthe corresponding satellite earth stations and satellite terminals.
Inmarsat was founded in 1979 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with the original aim of creating a global satellite communications network for the protection of life at sea. It is the first satellite communications provider to meet the stringent requirements of the Global Maritime Risk and Safety System and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The installation of Inmarsat’s ground satellite stations in Thermopylae comes after the decision of the also large satellite company SES to install the ground satellite stations of the O3b system in Thermopylae and confirms the interest of foreign satellite companies in investing in Greece, which the ministry of Digital Government continues to strongly support.
Dimitris Papastergiou: “Investment in space infrastructure”
That the government is looking for investments in space infrastructure to achieve the goals in areas such as the strengthening of shipping and the response to emergency situations points out in “THEME” the Minister of Digital Governance. Commenting on the move of the Global Maritime Risk and Safety System ground station to Greece, the Dimitris Papastergiou states: “The relocation of the earth satellite station from Burum, Holland to Thermopylae is a significant investment and at the same time a vote of confidence for Greece from an international satellite communications provider. In collaboration with EETT and the responsible general secretary of our ministry, Konstantinos Karanzaloswe worked methodically to reach the agreement with Inmarsat.
We are filled with optimism for the future that soon the second satellite station of the British giant will be installed in our country, after Nemea, where the first one is already located. Investing in space infrastructure is crucial to achieve national and European goals in critical areas, such as strengthening the shipping industry, the strengthening of security in maritime transport, the response to emergency situations and of course the promotion of the digitization of the economy. After all, the government of the New Republic is steadily investing in maintaining the competitiveness of Greek shipping, as it has added value to the development perspective of our country.”
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OTEDimitris PapastergiouInmarsatInmarsat Hellas