The Middle East is a vibrant region for satellite communications. With HD on the cusp of major growth and operators like Yahsat and Arabsat delivering a stock of new capacity to the region, is a new era for satellite communications emerging there?
In 2011, the Yahsat 1A satellite, one of the highest capacity satellites ever to enter the Middle East communications market, was launched. It heralded the official entrance of a new satellite player with the ability to completely change the dynamics of the market.
With so much new capacity coming online from both regional players and larger operators such as Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat, one of the key questions is whether there will be enough demand for the available supply. Patrick French, a senior analyst at NSR, says there is more than enough capacity being launch in the Middle East to meet the foreseeable demand.
“We are seeing a shifting demand. Some governments are going from Ku- to Ka-band in some cases,” says French. “We think there is plenty of capacity coming into the market. We don’t see any severe supply constraints, except for specific exceptions. If someone needs capacity on a very specific local slot with a specific beam, there is no guarantee that capacity will be available. But, in general, there is a good bit of new capacity coming into the market.”
Yahsat will launch its 1B satellite this year, and thus have two of the most powerful satellites in the region. Tareq Al Hosani, Yahsat’s CEO, believes there is “an insatiable desire for instant broadband connectivity” in the region. Yahsat believes its new YahClick service will be the catalyst for a raft of consumers and businesses moving to broadband services via satellite. According to Al Hosani, there are many reasons for optimism. He says, “One of the key definers that we will be able to offer through YahClick’s Ka-band technology is that it enables subscribers to access our high-speed broadband service through a small receiver dish — similar to the DTH TV antennas. This will significantly cut costs and will mean that customers will have a reliable Internet service that they can access directly from the satellite, avoiding the last mile connectivity issue which is often the major cause of service disruption.”
Attacking a number of different market segments will be key to the potential success of Yahsat going forward, according to Al Hosani. “YahClick’s proposition also means that it supports a wide-range of market segments other than the consumer market,” he says. “For example, we will be able to offer broadband solutions to government agencies for school networks and various other e-government solutions. YahClick will also offer both primary and back-up connectivity to business users. We are also working on new applications including transportable solutions for satellite news gathering and disaster recovery.”
If successful, Yahsat could make a significant impact on the market, though a lot will depend on how the company performs in the broadcast arena. A recent deal involving Middle East broadcaster MBC Group could be a sign of things to come. French says, “Yahsat would have to prove that they can create a new TV hotspot. I don’t think we can say today they have succeeded in doing that. It will take time. To say they have shaken up the Middle East market, they will have to become successful in TV/broadcasting. The UAE government deal they got was not open to competition. YahClick is very interesting and has a lot of potential. It needs time to really show that it will generate a lot of interest. I think Yahsat is on the cusp, and has a lot of potential, but they have not succeeded yet.”