International Satellite Organizations Facing the Challenge

Singapore Journal of International & ComparativeInternational & Comparative Law Singapore Journal of Law 186 (1999) 3 pp 186 – 236


International Satellite Organizations Facing the Challenge: INTELSAT and INMARSAT
George Huang*
The market for communication satellites has matured. The original environment within which international satellite organisations were formed or for which they were formed no longer exists. Privatisation, liberalisation, deregulation and competition are now keywords in the telecommunications industry. International satellite organisations have to change in order to survive. INTELSAT has chosen to spin-off a new company, New Skies Satellite NV, leaving itself free to concentrate on what it was formed for, international public telecommunications services. INMARSAT, after creating an affiliate, ICO Global Communications Ltd (‘ICO’), to implement its plan of providing Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellites, named ‘INMARSAT-P’, has privatised itself. Indications are that INTELSAT is likely to follow INMARSAT’s footsteps. The tide is such that a sea-change is inevitable. Yet, given the ideals for which the international satellite organisations were formed, one cannot but look at the process with some reservations.

INTERNATIONAL satellite organisations were born at a time when world peace and the idea of a global public utilities system appealed to the global community. However, we are now living in a very different age. Privatisation, efficiency and profit maximisation are the main objectives of most operations. In part, we have Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to thank, in part this is the backlash from the inefficiencies of many goliath state monopolies. Privatisation is also something promoted by international organisations such as the World Bank and affiliates, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Telecommunications Working Groups forums, World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement for Trade and...