Latin America has attracted major investments in the satellite markets throughout the years. The region encompasses South America, Central America, Mexico and all the Caribbean islands. Roughly 531 million people reside in this region. Latin America has the world's fifth most populated nation, Brazil, and two of the four most populated cities, Mexico City and Sao Paulo. Two additional cities, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, have populations exceeding those of London and Chicago. These factors as well kept satellite business innovators around, even through current troubled economic times.
Space-Based "Land Rush"
The satellite frenzy surge began in the late '90s with the dismissal of important trans-border regulatory barriers, with privatization of international satellite operators such as Intelsat and with World Trade Organization actions. Technology advances have also inspired the "land rush" of the past half-dozen years. One example is a single satellite such as Intelsat's 907 now orbiting above Latin America at 27.5 degrees W. Built by Space Systems Loral (SS/L), the 907 is equipped with a payload of 98 transponders, 76 in C- and 22 in Ku-band, in 36 MHz equivalents. Combined with today's digital compression and its multiplicative capacity, the latest satellite models are a far cry from the past.
Not to be outdone, Panamsat's newest bird is its Galaxy 3C in orbit at 95 degrees W, above the equator just west of Colombia and Ecuador. Built by Boeing Satellite Systems, the 702 spacecraft sports a payload of 76 transponders, with 24 in C-band and 52 in Ku-band. These new spacecraft models are definitely not your grandparents' 1,200 pound, 12- transponder HS 376 of 30 years ago.
Making Money In Troubled Times
At this point in time, 11 satellite operators are searching or are about to search for Latin American profits, during some very difficult economic and political times. With regulatory barriers down, several will advance beyond Latin America into the United States.
The three major players, in numbers of transponders and/or estimated revenues, are the industry's three international giants: Intelsat, Panamsat and SES Global, which appear to have a collective 70 percent of the action so far in Latin America.
SES Global's role is represented by Brazil's Star One, spun off from Embratel, and Argentina-based Nahuelsat, operating the Nahuel 1 satellite at 71.8 degrees W. SES Global owns a 19.99 percent participation in Star One, and a 28.75 percent participation in Nahuelsat.
Star One operates a cluster of Brasilsat C-band satellites and has started to construct its new Star One Series C1 satellite. As part of its deployment plan, Star One considered ordering two new satellites to replace Brasilsat B1 and Brasilsat B2, both in the 2006-2007 timeframe. Initially, C1 was designed to be totally Ku-band but management is now considering a change to a C-/Ku-band hybrid since the region has shown a reduction in market size due to the current economic situation in South America. With this new environment, Star One believes there is only room to launch two satellites in the next three years. Since one of its current orbital slots has both Ku- and C-band licenses, the solution is to have one of the replacement satellites changed into a hybrid.
SES Global's SES Americom is on the fringes of the Latin America land rush. Thirteen of Americom's satellites already have regulatory approvals to provide services to and from Latin American states.
Star One, in addition to its relations within the SES Global family, is also leasing capacity from Canada-based Telesat's Anik F1, located at 107.3 degrees W, for VSAT and broadband IP services managed by Gilat. By late this year, the Boeing 702 Anik F2, designed for commercialized Ka-band, is scheduled to be launched with a footprint over North and Latin America giving the Canadian operator a stronger play within this region (Editor's note: Star One does not plan to use Anik F2).
In addition to the above players, there is also U.S.-based Loral Skynet and its associations with Satmex and Estrela do Sul in the Loral Global Alliance; European-based New Skies; and Spain-based Hispasat. All of the players have been worrying about Latin America problems beyond their control, and the global uneasiness of war.