Michel de Rosen CEO, Eutelsat
Eutelsat had a busy 2012, winning access to new orbital positions, and concluding a deal for the GE-23 satellite (now Eutelsat 172A), which will give the operator a better position in Asia. It has also launched a number of new satellites, including recently the Eutelsat 21b and 70b satellites. Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat’s CEO talks about recent events.
VIA SATELLITE: Satellite jamming has been in the news again. Is any progress being made on this issue?
DE ROSEN: Although satellite jamming is marginal to our overall business, we pay high attention to it and will continue to do so. Like hacking and cyber-security, it is a scourge that is mobilizing stakeholders from the public and private sector, and each must play their role. In our opinion, satellite operators can be active in three main areas. From an operational point of view, when jamming is detected, we produce geolocation data as quickly as possible whenever it is possible (currently approximately 30 percent of incidents) and ensure that administrations are formally notified so they can do their own job. Second, we have to work on new procedures like Carrier ID and, over the longer term, new satellite and ground-based technologies that create more watertight systems. Third, we have to share information with broadcasters like the BBC and Voice of America (VOA), governments, regulators and public agencies so that reprisals go beyond words and warnings. The BBC conference last November, which brought together politicians, regulators, broadcasters and operators to discuss practical solutions, was a strong signal that the situation will evolve and as such was a welcome step in the right direction. We’re in this for the long haul.
VIA SATELLITE: Could you tell us about Ka-Sat’s involvement in the recent parliamentary elections in Ukraine?
De Rosen: The network deployed in October for Ukraine’s parliamentary elections really shows how Ka-Sat can perform not just in terms of the massive volume of data routed through the system, but also in terms of the scalability and cost-efficiency of the network. DataGroup, a service provider we have worked with in the Ukraine over many years picked Ka-Sat to ensure that 12,600 polling stations (one out of three) was able to transmit video recordings to the Central Election Commission in Kiev. The Ka-Sat terminals were deployed at an average pace of 500 a day in the month leading up the election. During election day and the following night, Ka-Sat managed 25,000 simultaneous video streams, representing a total throughput of 2.5 Gbps. This is the equivalent of a fully loaded medium capacity satellite, but only a small part of the 90 Gbps available via Ka-Sat. DataGroup confirmed after the event that it will continue to use Ka-Sat to serve Ukrainian institutions and public agencies. And for us, this experience showcases the flexibility of this infrastructure and just how well the system performs.
VIA SATELLITE: Is a company like O3b now in direct competition with Eutelsat?
De Rosen: We are talking about very different concepts. O3b is a challenging new venture of Medium Earth Orbit satellites, which will only enhance the role of satellites in the data business if its commercial and technical performance meets the expectations of its shareholders. I applaud SES for a bold move and taking a risk. As far as we are concerned, we generate most of our revenues from video, and as far as our data business in the regions targeted by O3b is concerned, most of it is for VSAT or backhauling, i.e., very different from the large data links increasingly provided by submarine cables, and that O3b is mostly targeting. Eutelsat sees more opportunities in satellite acting as a complement to terrestrial infrastructures.
VIA SATELLITE: Are we seeing convergence between FSS and MSS businesses?
De Rosen: Yes; compared to a few years ago, there is definitely more overlap now than there was before. But, this does not impact on what is by far our largest business of video. You might have the impression now that the two worlds totally overlap, but the overlap is only partial. Lastly, it seems to me that this is more the FSS operators entering the world of the MSS operators than the other way around. The FSS operators are increasing the breadth of the territory where we can operate today or tomorrow.
VIA SATELLITE: Will you look to sell your Hispasat stake to Abertis?
De Rosen: We are very satisfied as a shareholder of Hispasat, which is a promising company. We have been a shareholder for 11 years and intend to remain a shareholder and to continue to participate in the development of this company.
VIA SATELLITE: How are relations now with SES?
De Rosen: SES is a competitor and a professional company. We respect them as a competitor and co-operate with them as joint investors in Solaris Mobile. One way to improve your company is to have more demanding customers. A second is to have an aggressive competitor, and the third is to have demanding shareholders. Eutelsat has all three factors. There is a dispute at 28.5 degrees East. We believe we are on solid ground and have every intention of defending our rights and continuing to serve our customers.
VIA SATELLITE: What are your priorities for 2013?
De Rosen: One of the key events for us in 2012 was to stake out a place in the Asia-Pacific region and we will look to further solidifying this step in 2013. We are also looking for growth in other directions, specifically Latin America. There are a number of routes to this and we expect to see progress in 2013. Innovation is another priority area in terms of future satellite and ground technologies as well as technologies that anchor satellites in a world that is always-on, speaks in IP and is connected through a growing population of fixed and mobile screens.
VIA SATELLITE: With the Eutelsat 21B and 70B satellites recently launched, how much extra capacity would this give Eutelsat to serve emerging regions?
De Rosen: Eutelsat 21B and 70B will each take operations at established orbital positions (21.5 degrees East and 70.5 degrees East) to new levels. Both are already sweet spots for professional video, data and government services, Eutelsat 21B serving Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia and Eutelsat 70B also extending across to Far East Asia and Australia.
VIA SATELLITE: What levels of growth do you see in new video neighborhoods?
De Rosen: We have been steadily replicating the Hot Bird model (co-positioned satellites serving anchor pay-TV and free-to-air clients who are reaching into DTH homes as well as cable and ADSL networks) at other positions to serve specific regions. The strongest performers over the last 12 months have been the 7/8 degrees West neighborhood serving North Africa and the Middle East, and 36 degrees East serving Russia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Thirty-six degrees East, serving Russia and sub-Saharan Africa, is now our second video neighborhood after the Hot Birds. Eutelsat 36A and B together broadcast more than 700 channels, with accelerating HD channel take-up in both regions (up 90 percent over the last 12 months). We set great store by the relationship we have with RSCC in Russia and are very pleased with the deal announced in November for follow-on capacity with the Eutelsat 36C (Express-AMU1) satellite. We have traced a solid roadmap with RSCC and believe that this satellite will transform 36 degrees East into a broader neighborhood able to support more TV as well as IP-based applications to match the growth of Russia’s digital entertainment market. More than 11 million DTH antennas in Russia are already pointed at this position, subscribing to NTV+ or Tricolor, one of the world’s fastest-growing TV platforms. The agreement with RSCC also opens a new opportunity for us to develop the satellite broadcasting business on Express-AT2 at 140 degrees East, the key video neighborhood serving Russia’s Far East region.