Radio Erena: May 30, 2014

Arabsat

Satellite fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia on May 29 said it has suffered intentional jamming on multiple television channels on its fleet at 26 degrees east longitude and has succeeded in localizing the source of the interference in Ethiopia.

Riyadh-based Arabsat said it would use the full force of the law to collect damages from the jamming parties, without detailing how this might be achieved. The company said it has notified the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations affiliate, and the Arab League of the action.

 

In addition to expressing its anger, Arabsat said it was “surprised by the vandalism” because its fleet carries neither Ethiopian nor Eritrean programming. The company speculated that the jammers were aiming at one or more satellites nearby and were affecting Arabsat by accident.

“Several efforts are under way to mediate the situation,” Arabsat said.

Several satellite operators serving the Middle East, including Nilesat of Egypt and Eutelsat of Paris, have had to contend with intentional jamming in recent years, most recently during the Arab Spring protests against several governments in the region.

Satellite operators have little recourse except to ask their governments to exert diplomatic pressure on governments in whose territories the jammers operate.

Arabsat and Eutelsat have also responded by designing their new satellites with anti-jamming features that once were used only on military telecommunications satellites.

With just two weeks left until the start of the FIFA World Cup soccer championship in Brazil, an event expected to swell television audiences worldwide, Arabsat has a special incentive to identify the jamming source and use government pressure to stop it. The company asked for the understanding of its customers, saying the situation “is beyond [our] control.”

By Peter B. de Selding (Paris)

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