Arabsat CEO: New Hellas-Sat Satellites Will Have Ka-Band

Khalid Balkheyour

Khalid Balkheyour, CEO, Arabsat

Arabsat will use its acquisition of Hellas-Sat, the Greek satellite operator, to bring more Ka-band satellite capacity to customers. The company is working hard on a new RFP for two new Hellas-Sat satellites (Hellas-Sat 3 and Hellas-Sat 4), which could be wrapped up in the near future.

“We will try to accommodate some Ka-band. Neither will be a full Ka-band satellite but we will put some Ka beams on there, so we will try and get some pre-launch sales on those Ka-band beams. We will have a great flexibility,” Khalid Balkheyour, CEO, Arabsat told Via Satellite. “We will announce the RFP by the end of the year. The satellites will be a combination of different bands and technologies. They will either be two small- or two medium-sized satellites. The current Hellas-Sat 2 covers Eastern Europe, part of the Middle East and South Africa. So, we will look to expand on those; we want more coverage in of those areas.”

Ka-band is becoming an increasingly important part of Arabsat’s strategy. “We have a full Ka-band payload on our Arabsat 5C satellite. This was taken by a government organization. We also have our Arabsat 6B satellite, which is under manufacture, and this has Ka-band,” said Balkheyour. “Our new satellites will be hybrid. They will not be Ka only but we will utilize other spectrum to improve the business case of these satellites.”

Arabsat announced earlier this year that it was acquiring Hellas-Sat for around 208 million ($276.47 million), a key acquisition for the company since it is planning on being one of the five biggest satellite operators in the world by 2020. The acquisition of Hellas-Sat is indication of a more progressive strategy in place. Given its lofty ambitions, Arabsat could be one to watch in terms of future industry consolidation.

“I think there will be some more opportunities for acquisitions,” said Balkheyour. “There are difficulties, particularly with national operators, as there is a political dimension. However, with limitations with orbital slots and spectrum, satellite operators will look for opportunities for acquisition. I would think there are other opportunities for Arabsat over the next 12 months.”

It has been a busy few weeks for the company as it recently announced a new collaboration with Es’hailSat. Balkheyour said this deal was key as the operator looked to expand its alliances base. “Arabsat was not looking at this as a single event transaction but more as long life partnership with Qatar,” he said. “Commercial negotiations took a long time to reach a situation where both parties feel that they are acquiring what is right and what really makes sense. Es’hailsat 2 is going to be launched at Arabsat’s 26 degrees east in the neighborhood of Arabsat’s BADR-series satellites. Es’hailsat will bring additional premium content to the hotspot and both fleets will construct backup for each other.”

Balkheyour expects such a collaboration to continue. “Arabsat and Es’hailsat are both after more growth, we believe that both companies have the best fit and we hope we will take this partnership further,” he said.

According to Balkheyour, 2013 is turning out to be a “milestone” year for the company, and he is confident it can build on its progress this year. “Arabsat has recently launched the new pay-TV network ‘My-HD’ in MENA that is totally based on HDTV technology,” he said. “Arabsat is looking to have more than 80 HDTV channels on Arabsat 26 degrees east by end of this year, which is unprecedented in the region. We are also working on some new hosted payloads, not to mention the on-going work on our new sixth generation satellites. Arabsat will continue to work on leveraging its resources and competitive advantage through more partnerships.”

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