Intelsat Looks To Expand Broadband In Mideast, Asia

By | September 22, 2003 | Feature

Intelsat’s recent launch of a broadband network in West Africa is part of a broader international broadband push by the satellite operator.

Erich Fischer, Intelsat’s senior director of global broadband services, told SATELLITE NEWS: “We are in the process of looking at Asia and the Middle East, so I would expect to see activities in these regions.”

Intelsat broadband service platform makes two-way broadband Internet access and IP networking directly available to ISPs and others looking to serve small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), small office/home office users (SOHOs), governments and corporations. The new network in West Africa underlines how important broadband is becoming for Intelsat. “Intelsat views satellite broadband as a future catalyst for growth, particularly as we move to be a more data and video centric company,” Fischer said.

Education, Education, Education

While broadband has potentially lucrative returns for satellite operators, executing successfully in this arena is by no means a given. Fischer told SATELLITE NEWS that educating markets about the benefits of satellite is still a top priority. “We, at Intelsat, spend a lot of time with our service providers educating the SMEs and the SOHOs that broadband via satellite is a productivity and efficiency tool. There are examples of customers who have found that their revenues have increased after they have implemented satellite broadband service. Unfortunately, in the past, operational quality has been sub-standard. So we believe that quality of service will be extremely important for educating the market and for removing satellite broadband’s tarnished image, and we believe that Intelsat’s unparalleled service quality will be a strong competitive advantage.”

While the technology and the price points are getting better, the time could be right for FSS operators such as Intelsat to make a far greater impact in the satellite broadband field. With six broadband networks located around the world, Fischer believes Intelsat is uniquely placed to take advantage of the opportunities. “There are as many attributes which set Intelsat apart from our competition in the satellite broadband arena. First, we work hand-in-glove with prospective customers to customize solutions to meet their requirements rather than force-fit requirements into pre-defined service levels. Second, we have global reach with our satellite fleet and operational broadband networks around the world. This allows us to take customers virtually anywhere, and allows us to draw on our experience with different networks in various parts of the globe. Finally, we operate the teleport, the hub and the space segment, which gives us more control over operational quality than some competitors.”

Fischer said that this global reach enables Intelsat to offer ISPs better advice in positioning their broadband offering. “We work closely with our customers to understand their requirements and applications carefully – how much VoIP [voice-over-IP] traffic they will support, how much distance learning, how many schools, SMEs, SOHOs there would be in the network, etc. – to configure the network to achieve an appropriate quality of service. In doing this, we are able to draw on our experience with different service providers on networks in various parts of the world.”

Growing Revenues

Fischer predicted that over the next 12 months, revenues from broadband services could see some significant increases.

“We have positioned our broadband service to be a catalyst for growth utilizing our current satellite fleet. In some areas of the world we envision slow, steady growth, while others would see a sharper uptake. Given technical developments and price points, we are now at a place in the evolution of the market where satellite broadband can make good economic and technical sense,” Fischer said.

Growth Strongest in Africa

In terms of regions, Fischer believes the growth is likely to be strongest in Africa, hence the significance of the recent announcement. Intelsat’s six broadband platforms cover Europe, Africa, and an area that stretches from the North Andean region of South America to the southern United States. The newly launched West African Ku-band network joins Intelsat’s two existing East African Ku-band and pan-African C-band broadband networks.

While regions such as Africa and Latin America may offer the most potential for growth in the short to medium term, Fischer believes the operator’s global presence will bring a good amount of business from Europe. “Intelsat is well-positioned to work with corporations and institutions based in Europe that have broadband access and networking requirements around the world. With our operational networks throughout the globe, we can very easily bring European-based companies into Africa, into Latin America and so forth. I see that as being an interesting part of the growth path for broadband and IP networking.”

–Mark Holmes

(Susan Gordon, Intelsat, e-mail: susan.gordon@intelsat.com)

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