[Satellite News 03-06-09] SmartSat is set to make a decision in the next three months on who will manufacture its satellite, Khaled Derbas, chairman of SmartSat, told Satellite News.
The shortlist has now been whittled down to three manufacturers: Thales Alenia Space, Orbital Sciences and Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), and SmartSat is in negotiations with all three players. "We are now at the end stage," said Derbas.
SmartSat, unveiled in February, is a $500 million joint venture between Smartlink, a Jordanian broadband satellite services provider, and Al Jawhara Holding, a Kuwaiti investment holding company. SmartSat plans to launch its privately funded satellite in 2011 to serve the Middle East.
The SmartSat satellite primarily will target the region's ISPs, GSM providers, broadband technology solution providers, TV stations, ministries of communication, military agencies and companies dealing with data systems, Derbas said. "We need a triple-band satellite, so Ku-, Ka- and C-band. We know that Ka-band may not be much needed right now, but over the next three years that will change. We have to prepare ourselves for the time ahead to provide the bandwidth needed for this technology."
SmartSat is entering the market at a time when many satellite operators plan to bring new capacity to the region. Regional operators, such as Arabsat and Nilesat, are adding new satellites, and SES New Skies is scheduled to have its NSS-12 satellite in orbit later this year. Nigel Gibson, SES New Skies regional vice president for Europe, the Middle East and CIS, said, there is a "lack of capacity in the region, and that a lot of businesses in the Middle East were looking to expand into Africa,” creating new opportunities for satellite players.
However, there is little doubt that SmartSat will be a player to watch. With many executives at Satellite MENA 2009 saying the region is bereft of capacity, SmartSat may be able to find plenty of demand for its capacity regardless of what established operators are planning.
In terms of plans for future satellites, Derbas said, "You cannot launch one satellite and then say that is it. In the first years, we have to launch the second or the back-up satellite. This back-up satellite will be in the first three years."