It may seem cliché, but the Asia region is commonly perceived as some kind of Holy Grail for the satellite sector. Huge populations spread far and wide, combined with low pay-TV penetrations, have provided strong opportunities for satellite growth.
In a recent interview with Via Satellite, Vivek Couto, executive director of Media Partners Asia (MPA), predicted that the DTH portion of the pay-TV market would grow from 11 percent in 2011 to more than 30 percent in 2020. While the overall regional figures are somewhat skewed by the significant growth of DTH in China, these numbers really jump out in terms of satelite’s growing influence. According to MPA, markets such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines have proved vibrant for DTH during the last couple of years, which means the demand for satellite capacity will continue to increase, particularly as the emergence of new middle classes creates additional demands for pay-TV.
The figures from MPA are quite astonishing when you look at the potential fluctuations that could take place in Asia’s video markets during the next few years, and the respective market shares of different technologies. Cable goes from an 86 percent market share in 2010 to less than 60 percent in 2020. This shows just what an influence satellite is having in video markets, and not just in China and India. While it is too early to say whether the demands for HD, or even 3-D, are going to increase significantly, it seems likely that capacity available in the region will be snapped up. An operator like Dish TV in India has around 12 million subscribers, which puts it above BSkyB in terms of subscribers.
The wave of optimism towards satellite is not exclusive to the video markets, either. Thaicom has seen an impressive turnaround in recent months, and after many years of struggle, its Ipstar satellite investment at last looks as though it is going to pay off. Australia, often a poster boy for satellite, also continues to adopt one of the most progressive strategies of any nation towards satellite. It seems to be paying off, as it successfully launched the IS-22 satellite featuring a payload for the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and the National Broadband Company (NBN) announced plans this year to acquire two Ka-band satellites. While satellite broadband remains a hard market to assess in Asia, there are at least signs of encouragement and investment in this area.
It was assumed that there was a limited play for satellite broadband in Asia due to the rain fade issues that are a common challenge in Ka-band physics. Improvements in technology and capability to overcome these issues, however, could mean that there is more of a market than first imagined.
Despite the potential for DTH and broadband, it can still remain a tough region to do business. Markets like China and India are regulatory minefields, and international satellite companies can frequently be frustrated in some of these growth markets. Piracy also remains a very real issue in many of the region’s video markets.
The number of success stories is on the rise though and some of the stronger markets in the region are doing well as applications continue to develop. We can only hope that this upward trend continues.