India to Keep ISRO Launch Vehicles Busy

By | March 19, 2009 | Feature, Government

[Satellite News 03-19-09] While there will be plenty of launch opportunities within India, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) also hopes to make inroads internationally in the next five years, G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO, told Satellite News
    “I cannot say we have taken a large part of this market. We hope in the future, this will expand for us, and we can gain 5 percent 10 percent of the medium satellites market in the next five years. We are targeting major operators for deals going forward,” he said.
    ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) can loft up to 2.5 tons of payload into geostationary orbit, and the GSLV 3, scheduled for first launch before the end of 2009 will be capable of carry 4 tons, said Nair, who believes ISRO can offer a compelling launch solution compared to most established launch service providers.
    “When we look at the overall cost structure, we think we are less expensive when compared to others in Europe or in Japan or China. That is why we are seeing a lot of people coming to us,” he said. “We have carried 16 satellites for international customers. Out of those, two of them are big satellites, and the rest are small satellites. We expect this market to expand over the coming years. We have got a development program in place, which has the aim of doubling our potential launch capacity.”
    The one major obstacle Nair sees to more work outside of India is regulations that could inhibit the use Indian launch vehicles by international players. “I think there are practices in developed countries which do not allow satellites to be bought to India to be launched and some of the high technology components to be exported to our market. So if there is an open system, perhaps things would improve,” he said. “We are not worried about it, as the domestic market is more than capable of driving revenue growth for us. We expect to see a 25 percent increase in terms of revenues in 2009. We also expect profits to increase.”

The Domestic Market

ISRO’s family of launch vehicles will have plenty of business supporting a domestic launch market, as bringing new transponder capacity to India will be one of the space agency’s key objectives over the next few years. “We are planning to double the capacity we have available. We want to have around 500 transponders made available for various uses,” Nair said.
    Satellite technology can play a key role, particularly in rural areas of the country. “Satellite technology is proving to be very important in India in areas such as tele-education and telemedicine as well as remote sensing applications,” Nair said. “These programs have a strong demand for satellite capacity. Satellite technology is adding tremendous value in terms of these projects. There will be even more demands for satellite-based services in the coming years as the importance of these projects becomes apparent.”
    The capacity will be needed, as India has huge potential demands for satellite bandwidth, said Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of CASBAA (Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia). “India is a very competitive market for DTH. None of the players who are entering the business in India are making noises that they want to get out. One of the reasons is that the economic prospects for India, look as though it will have 4 percent to 5 percent growth in 2009. That remains a healthy number.”
    In terms of the telecoms market in India, Twiston Davies added, “We might see a slowdown in the distribution growth of new mobile handsets. Remember that in 2008, we saw a remarkable 10 million new mobile subscriptions per month in India. That speaks of an enormous increase for the requirements for the backhaul of data into the Indian market just for mobile. Even if we see a dramatic falloff from that growth of 10 million mobile subs per month and only see 5 million per month, there will still be tremendous requirements for satellite capacity for backhaul,” he said.
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