The European Telecommunications Satellite Organization, EUTELSAT, was created in 1977 by 17 European countries, members of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), with the purpose of operating a European telecommunications satellite system. Its constitutive text, the EUTELSAT Convention, was opened for signature in July 1982 and entered into force on 1 September 1985.

EUTELSAT established the first telecommunications satellite system in Europe. It started by providing space segment capacity for basic telecommunications and audio-visual services to Europe and expanded its activities to the provision of a wide range of analogue and digital television and radio broadcasting services, business telecommunications services, multimedia communications, messaging and positioning services and access to broadband internet. Its satellite fleet provides coverage for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the American continent.

Until 2 July 2001, the main purpose of EUTELSAT was the design, development, construction, operation and maintenance of the space segment of the European telecommunications satellite system or systems. In this context, the original objective of EUTELSAT was the provision of the space segment required for international public telecommunications services in Europe.