Handbook of Space Law

Handbook of Space Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Frans von der Dunk

Handbook of Space Law addresses the legal and regulatory aspects of activities in outer space and major space applications from a comprehensive and structured perspective. The book fundamentally addresses the dichotomy between the state-oriented character of international space law and the increasing commercialization and privatization of space activities.

Chapter 8: Legal aspects of satellite communications

Frans von der Dunk

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


Satellite communications represents the largest and most commercialized space sector by far. At the same time, in many respects it only forms a specific sector of telecommunications in general, happening to make use of satellites as part of relevant telecommunication networks. Following from this, also in terms of legal analysis satellite communications in many respects is subject implicitly or explicitly to much broader scoped telecommunication law regimes. Chapter 8, however, largely focuses on the specific analyses of satellite communications law as a sector in its own right, and then within that context further focuses on two regimes from the very start specifically targeting that sector. The starting point for any analysis here concerns the competences of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to coordinate internationally the allotment, allocation and assignment of satellite frequencies and attendant orbital slots/orbits, as following from the ITU Constitution, ITU Convention and Radio Regulations, and ensure the efficient use of satellite communications more broadly speaking. In addition, the UN Principles on Direct Television Broadcasting by Satellite, an important yet ultimate flawed and failed effort to address some general international public aspects of one branch of satellite communications, direct TV broadcasting by satellite, reflected the important global political elements involved in this global sector. Even from a somewhat narrower perspective of ‘satellite communications’ as a sector of space applications in its own right ignoring such usage of satellite communication frequencies for, for instance, remote sensing or TT & C (telemetry, tracking, and command), more regimes than those two would be involved, notably those of international trade in satellite services, the role of intergovernmental satellite organizations and the specific European satellite communications regime, but those will be addressed elsewhere in the appropriate chapters and only referenced in this chapter.

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