Since the birth of commercial satellite systems in the 1960s, satellites have grown to deliver a broad range of essential services to people around the globe. They are a key element in delivering television broadcasting and mobile networks infrastructure, in providing emergency telecommunications, global positioning, meteorological information, environmental monitoring, and communication services that ensure safety of life on land, at sea and in the sky.
The development of satellite communication has highlighted the need for managing satellite-related scarce resources, i.e. the satellite spectrum and orbit.
The evolution of the global satellite communications industry is generating new commercial opportunities for businesses operating within this sector. Advancements in technology are leading businesses from this and other sectors to capitalize on the ensuing new economic and commercial opportunities.
As the number of satellites increases, the risk of harmful interference needs to be more carefully and accurately assessed in order to continue to ensure the viability of the large investments made. The MCA’s role in this area focuses on three main streams: (i) to ensure that the deployment of new satellites will not cause harmful interference to Malta’s terrestrial networks; (ii) to protect Malta’s space assets; and (iii) to serve as a satellite-filing administration with the ITU with respect to new satellite systems.
Spectrum available for satellite services
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines the spectrum for satellite services which can be used in each designated Region of the world. It also accords primary and secondary status to services and provides detailed footnotes offering directions for use of each spectrum allocation where this is necessary. Malta’s National Frequency Plan reflects these international frequency designations but also takes into account harmonised radio spectrum use in Europe.
In order to ensure that all countries have access to space resources, the ITU has established plans to guarantee an equitable access to satellite capacity by all ITU Member states. Malta is allocated with space resources under these ITU plans. These are currently unused. Further information on Malta’s Allotted Satellite Slots and Associated Radio Frequencies can be found here.
Satellite systems and Earth stations are also subject to international frequency coordination and recording procedures. This is necessary to ensure that operators’ multimillion dollar satellite systems operate smoothly throughout their lifetimes, delivering services to billions of people without interfering with each other. These procedures are established in the ITU Radio Regulations and are revised by WRCs as necessary.
The MCA, as the national entity responsible for the effective management of radio spectrum represents Government in ITU matters relating to radiocommunications. It also acts as Malta’s notifying administration with the ITU with respect to the registration of terrestrial and space systems. In this respect the MCA has adopted a set of procedures, which must be followed by satellite players wishing to register their satellite network with the ITU through Malta. These procedures detail the necessary coordination procedures and registration to be undertaken, in order to achieve international recognition under the relevant provisions of the ITU Radio Regulations. In particular, the procedures define the roles and responsibilities pertaining to the MCA and to an applicant with regard to the different types of applications that are permitted under ITU rules. Further details on the satellite registration procedure can be found in the MCA’s Procedures for the management of satellite network filings.
In addition, the MCA has also established processes which facilitate the establishment and operation of satellite earth stations in Malta. Further details on Licensing of Satellite Earth Stations including satellite uplink systems can be found here.
These initiatives form part of a wider set of activities, which are aimed at promoting Malta’s national infrastructure and space assets. MCA representatives are more than happy to discuss these topics and initiatives with interested parties. In order to initiate a discussion, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GSA - The European GNSS Agency
The MCA, on behalf of Government, is the Maltese representative for the initiatives brought forward by the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency - GSA. In participating in such initiatives, the MCA focuses on supporting local industry and academia participating in the respective GSA projects.
Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) refers to a constellation of satellites providing signals from space that transmit positioning and timing data to GNSS receivers. The receivers then use this data to determine location. Examples of GNSS include Europe’s Galileo, the USA’s NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia’s Global'naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (GLONASS) and China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.
Galileo and EGNOS: Europe’s successful venture into Navigation
Galileo and EGNOS are Europe’s autonomous GNSS under civilian control for civilian purposes.
Galileo provides improved positioning and timing information with significant positive implications for many European services and users. From getting directions to a new location, to accurate time stamps necessary for a Financial Transaction, to determining the exact location of a victim during a Search and Rescue incident, GNSS systems like Galileo has nowadays become a necessity.
The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service –EGNOS - is Europe’s regional satellite based augmentation system (SBAS) that provides highly accurate information over the European Region. This is done by collecting GPS information from a number of ground reference stations. The collated errors are then processed in a Mission Control Centre that computes correction data. This is then broadcast via Satellite Communication Systems to EGNOS users. EGNOS has already been adopted in the aviation sector as it increases the vertical precision required in challenging approach procedures. Its uptake will continue to increase in other sectors too including maritime and autonomous driving.
Further details on the European GNSS system can be found here.