Laura Salcedo is a junior legal counsel at Hiber, an Internet of Things (IoT) satellite communications provider. She graduated in law in Colombia where she also worked for the telecommunications sector dealing mainly with regulatory matters and supporting administrative claims. In 2017, she moved to the Netherlands to pursue her Master studies in Air & Space Law at Leiden University. Since joining Hiber in May of 2018, she has been responsible for regulatory issues regarding foreign market access and licensing.
Laura, please introduce yourself.
Laura Salcedo (LS)
I am a junior legal counsel at Hiber. In short, I am responsible for legal compliance and for the company’s international regulatory and policy matters at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), including spectrum allocation, market access and licensing globally.
What is the mission and focus of Hiber?
Hiber started with a mission to fill in the lack of available low cost, low power, global IoT connectivity in remote and rural areas. As we are about to have that problem solved, we are slowly moving toward becoming an enabler of IoT use cases in general. This has been possible thanks to the work done with our selected ecosystem of customers, Systems Integrators, Original Equipment Manufacturers and Network Operators.
What geographic and vertical markets does Hiber prioritize and do you see new markets emerging?
We are mostly focused on rural and remote areas where there is the need to collect and send not-time-critical data, but which necessarily relies on space-based connectivity. Our key verticals are agriculture, logistics, energy and infrastructure, and environment. The applications in this business are endless and this facilitates that we are now moving towards satisfying every type of customers’ needs.
What distinguishes Hiber from other IoT connectivity companies?
We have done everything correctly, so far, I believe and there is no doubt that Hiber is among the leaders in this industry. And, of course, we intend to keep growing in this market segment. Have you seen how much progress the company has made during the last three years? Having all processes in place means we are the safe choice, as well as the best positioned to deliver these services.
In order to provide high quality services you have to secure high priority filings through the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as well as ensure the spectrum that you are aiming for fits the goals of your company. That is to say that those companies using bands that serve other purposes, or which are not available for certain applications, (i.e., unlicensed ISM bands) may be in derogation of the Radio Regulations.
Such misuse would surely lead to harmful interference to those services operating in accordance with the Radio Regulations, and as there is no way that the interference caused will not affect you as well, the ability to provision commercial services would certainly be jeopardized.
Over the last few years, the satellite telecommunications industry has witnessed the implications of ignoring the relevant regulatory framework. We know it is a highly competitive market, that securing suitable filings is far from being an easy task, that dealing with different legal regimes can be burdensome, but you have to keep your National Regulatory Agency (NRA) by your side. This is the only way in which you can show your customers you are being diligent enough, and that is what we have as priority at Hiber since the day the company was started, all to the benefit of our customer community.
What are satellite frequency bands and which one uses Hiber? And why? How can you get/claim a frequency?
I have to start by saying that there is no sovereignty in outer space, which means that no property rights are granted there and its use is authorized only for a defined period of time.
As orbits and frequency bands for radio services are finite natural resources, the ITU must guarantee rational, equitable, efficient and economical use.
The orbit-spectrum resource (OSR) refers to the fact that satellites are assigned a GSO or NGSO slot as well as the frequency spectrum necessary for communications. The low cost aspect of the service we provide is based on the fact that we are focused on spectrum that will allow the operation of systems supporting small antennas using as little energy as possible.
When certain frequency bands are called upon during the planning procedure, the NRA of the concerned State notifies the ITU Bureau of the OSR needed to satisfy their actual requirements. This information is published in order for other States to determine whether their systems could be affected and, if so, the notification would be returned for corrections. If the findings are favorable, the coordination request starts with consultation with the affected State(s) to coordinate assignments. Once an agreement is reached, administrations communicate it to the ITU Bureau which records it into the Master International Frequency Register (MIFR), which gives international recognition and protection of a State’s satellite system.
To be granted the use of the OSR, back in 2016, Hiber made the relevant submissions to the ITU. This procedure is governed by a first come, first served principle, with the date of receipt being vital as that secures the key spectrum ahead of potential competitors. This grants us a high quality of service — the priority date obliges you to only coordinate with those who have filed ahead of you (in our case, only a few parties). On the other hand, those with later filing dates have to show how they will not interfere with us. In other words, having a filing with an early date of receipt constitutes a competitive advantage. Depending on the frequency and service, further coordination is required with other administrations.
For our operation, we are using the UHF band to communicate with the payload of our satellites, the S-band to send the collected data back to Earth and VHF for telemetry, tracking & control (TT&C) purposes. Currently, we are concluding the coordination with those administrations that issued comments to our filing, to further request the recording of the frequency assignments into the MIFR.
Which are the different regulatory entities you are in touch with? Why do you need them?
As mentioned, international, regional and national authorities play a major role in managing the access to the OSR.
The ITU is the United Nations (UN) specialized agency that is in charge of regulating the use of the radio spectrum and the avoidance of interference between countries and applications, accrediting international equipment and setting other standards for telecommunications.
Every three or four years, the World Radiocommunication Conference is organized by the ITU so that governments can discuss and agree pm new standards and policies that are then further transposed into a legally binding international treaty called Radio Regulations.
Regional cooperation is crucial in managing the access to the OSR, as it aims to develop common policies to harmonize the efficient use of the radio spectrum. However, their non-binding decisions represent a challenge. As long as administrations do not transpose the agreed instruments into their national laws, the provision of services within the different national markets will be subject to different and specific rules and practices. This constrains the potential of the IoT industry to develop and expand across borders.
Finally, the role of the NRAs are key for securing the use of the OSR as well as for entering the market. As the use of the OSR is allocated only to ITU Member States, and not to private entities, we first must obtain our own national telecommunications license through our own NRA, Agentschap Telecom, that is based in the Netherlands.
Depending on the market Hiber has targeted for service provisioning, the operation of our network may be subject to a licensing scheme. This means that even when the registration procedure is concluded within the ITU, operators are not automatically allowed to operate worldwide. Depending on the country, Hiber needs to be assigned the use of the radio frequency band on a territory by the respective NRA, which is either done via general authorizations or individual licenses. One or the other will give us more certainty that the service will not be exposed to harmful interference from others.
How would you describe the business you oversee today?
From the work I am engaged in, I can tell you that perhaps one of the biggest challenges is educating administrations about this technology.
We are paving the way for upcoming competitors, and even though that is not entirely fair, it is what has to be done and Hiber is happy to be in the forefront.
What we have seen at Hiber is that IoT applications show tremendous growth rates, which can only mean one thing: we are moving in the correct direction. With two satellites already on-orbit and a network that continues to grow, we will be soon providing higher service levels.
Today, the fact is that several devices will be connected in the near term via private networks, such as ours. This means our global connectivity service, together with the traction given by working with our Systems Integrators, Original Equipment Manufacturers and Network Operators, is certainly game changing.
Hiber is leading the race on transforming many industries — this was projected a long time ago and is finally happening — I am confident this is the correct place to be positioned today as well as tomorrow.