Dutch administrative court sides with Inmarsat on spectrum auction plan

TAMPA, Fla. — An administrative court in the Netherlands has suspended the Dutch government’s plan to sell off 3.5 GHz spectrum, which British satellite operator Inmarsat uses for maritime safety and distress services.

The Hague District Court ordered a provisional injunction June 30, telling the government to consult with Inmarsat to find another solution for releasing the frequencies for terrestrial 5G services next year.

The current update to the government’s National Frequency Plan would give 5G providers full use of the spectrum, forcing Inmarsat to move a ground station in the northern part of the Netherlands.

“We are pleased that the vital safety services that protect the lives of 1.6 million seafarers worldwide daily delivered via Inmarsat satellites will not now be put at risk by the change to the National Frequency Plan,” Inmarsat General Counsel Brad Swann said in a statement.

“Inmarsat does not seek to halt the roll-out of 5G in the Netherlands and it can still proceed alongside the maintenance of essential satellite safety services.”

The satellite operator has said it uses about a quarter of the 3.5 GHz band, and that its technical studies have shown ways to coexist alongside 5G services in the region.

“We’ll continue our ongoing discussions with Inmarsat and other parties about a future solution for satellite communications like maritime safety services,” Harald Hanemaaijer, spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, told SpaceNews.

“The Dutch government acknowledges the importance of these services.”

The preliminary judgment cannot be appealed but precedes a full court judgment that will come at a date to be determined by the court.

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