Albert Yen and Oli Wong
To accommodate the development of the next-generation satellite communication service industry and market, the Executive Yuan approved the amendments on March 11 of this year (2022), and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications announced on March 18 of the same year the “Radio Frequency Supply Plan”, under which the 10.7-12.7GHz, 13.75-14.5GHz, 17.7-20.2GHz, and 27.5-30.0GHz bands are planned to be released in phases. In the first phase, telecommunications enterprises will be allowed to apply for the frequency used for geostationary and non-geostationary fixed-satellite communications.
The Ministry of Digital Affairs (hereinafter, the “MODA”) passed at its meeting relevant regulations such as the “Matters Concerning Applications of Telecommunications Enterprises for the Assignment of Radio Frequency for Fixed-Satellite Service” (hereinafter, the “Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications”), the “Operation Directions for Reviewing Applications of Telecommunications Enterprises for the Assignment of Radio Frequency for Fixed-Satellite Service”, and the “Fee-charging Standards for the Application for Radio Frequency Allocation Review by Telecommunications Enterprises” on October 25, 2022, and caused them to be publicly announced and put into effect on November 7, 2022. The MODA has started to accept the applications from telecommunications enterprises from November 8 of this year.
The Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications are highlighted below:
1. Qualifications of applicants and users: An applicant shall be a telecommunications enterprise and its chairman of the board of directors shall be a national of the Republic of China. Any foreign shareholders in an applicant company shall not directly own more than 49% of the company’s shares, and their combined direct and indirect shares in the company shall not exceed 60%, and there shall be no mainland Chinese investors (Point 3 of the Announcement in the Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications).
2. Application period: Depending on whether the applicant has set up a satellite communication network, there are three types of applications, namely, applications for “newly established satellite communications networks or satellite systems”, “radio frequencies of an existing satellite system that are newly added or changed”, and ” re-assignment after the frequency use period expires” with different application methods, periods, and assignment processes (Point 1 of the Announcement in the Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications).
3. Frequency ranges available for application and their use: the Ku/Ka bands (i.e. 10.7-12.7GHz, 13.75-14.5GHz, 17.7-20.2GHz, and 27.5-30.0GHz) for fixed communications of geostationary and non-geostationary satellites. In particular, the 27.9-29.5GHz band shall be subject to entering into an agreement with incumbent mobile broadband enterprises (Points 2(1):(2) and Point 6(3):4 of the Announcement in the Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications).
4. Frequency usage period: two years from the date of obtaining the frequency usage certificate with application required for re-assignment upon expiration (Point 2(5) of the Announcement in the Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications).
5. User obligations: When frequency interference occurs, users shall comply with the principles for handling satellite interferences, including not requesting interference protection from established geostationary satellites, microwave stations, and mobile base stations, and power shall be reduced or operation shall be suspended before the interference is improved. Non-geostationary satellites shall not interfere with geostationary satellites, and the frequencies between non-geostationary satellite systems shall be shared harmoniously and effectively (Point 4(1) of the Announcement in the Frequency Assignment Matters of Fixed-Satellite Communications).
At present, major international low-earth orbit satellite enterprises adopt the sole proprietorship model in their global deployment strategies, and if foreign enterprises apply for frequency use in Taiwan, they will have to change their operating model in response to the foreign ownership restriction in Taiwan. It remains to be seen whether foreign low-earth orbit enterprises are willing to adjust their strategies in the future such as setting up joint ventures with local telecom operators or promoting satellite communications business through agents, or whether the government is willing to promote legal amendments to deregulate the foreign shareholding ratio.
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