SES Sirius Prepares For Sirius 4 Launch

By | October 16, 2007 | Broadcasting, Feature, Telecom

[10-16-07 – Satellite News]  SES Sirius managing director Håkan Sjödin is optimistic that the operator’s Sirius 4 satellite will be in orbit before the end of the year despite the delays created by the September failure of a Proton rocket.

Sirius 4 has been scheduled for launch in October, but the Proton failure that destroyed the JCSAT-11 satellite threw SES Sirius’s plans into doubt.

Getting the satellite in orbit is the main priority for SES Sirius, the Nordic wing of the SES Global family, which is depending on Sirius 4’s 46 Ku-band transponders to drive improved performance in the Baltics as well as other areas of Eastern Europe.

It adds up to an interesting test for Sjödin, who assumed his role as managing director in September. He discussed Sirius 4 as well as how he believes the operator will derive more revenues from Central and Eastern Europe with Satellite News.

Satellite News: How has the Proton failure impacted your launch plans?

Sjödin: We are looking at a November-December timeframe. We know that the Russians are launching their next satellite from Baikonur on Oct. 25, which means that potentially we could launch around a month after that.

Satellite News: Where do you see the major growth opportunities for the company?

Sjödin: I think the development for us over the last two years has been very good in both the Nordic area as well as the Baltic region. We work with Viasat, which has seen strong growth. A lot of the new local channels are on Sirius and on the DTH (direct-to-home) platform. We are also present in Romania with a DTH platform called MaxTV. They are growing. They will grow further.
We are also very active in the Ukraine. I believe this is a market that will explode. What we are seeing in Romania now is that there are five active DTH platforms. There are none in the Ukraine. I think this will change rapidly. We have a good position. We have a good satellite position. There are some 100,000 [free-to-air] satellite dishes installed in the Ukraine with Sirius in the middle, which gives us the best signal, and the last signal to disappear if they have heavy rain.

Satellite News: What percentage of revenues are you deriving from Eastern Europe?

Sjödin: That is very difficult to say, but the business there is growing steadily, and we expect it to continue to grow steadily over the years. Eastern Europe represents around 20 percent of our current revenues, but over the next few years I expect it to grow beyond 50 percent. … The most important thing is to have the satellite capacity up there. Even though Sirius 4 is a big satellite with a lot of transponders, I still think the demand is much higher than that. We need to have more satellites, whether ours or within the family.

Satellite News: How much capacity do you hope to have sold on Sirius 4 at launch?

Sjödin: Overall, we have around 80 percent capacity sold on our fleet. We hope to sell most of the capacity of Sirius 4 at launch. We expect the satellite to be over 90 percent full at launch.

Satellite News: How do you compete against someone like Eutelsat in this market?

Sjödin: Our strategy is to be present in the market. That is the most important thing. We have a local office in Bucharest, Romania, which has given us a great advantage over time. We have currently nine people in an office in Kiev, a mix of local and European people. We have an office in Moscow as well as Riga. Our strategy is to have local people in the local markets where we are present to make sure we follow the developments day by day and get to learn the people that are active.

Satellite News: If a markets such as Romania sees consolidation in its DTH players, how will this impact SES Sirius?

Sjödin: For the coming year I don’t see any immediate consolidation, but I fully understand that this will happen over time and that is again why it is important to have local people in these markets which understand the changes taking place in the market. They will see them much quicker than us.

Satellite News: Is there a satellite broadband opportunity for SES Sirius?

Sjödin: Within the SES group there is a new department heading up the broadband initiative. We have a lot of VSAT business in the Nordic and Baltic regions. We are not in the service business ourselves. We are providing a lot of capacity to service providers, so that is a strong opportunity for us. We have also selling service providers one-way broadband services.

Satellite News: How is the growth of high-definition TV (HDTV) impacting SES Sirius?

Sjödin: The impact is that we will have a greater demand for satellite capacity, particularly in the Nordic region to begin with. I think this will have a greater impact next year, where I think we will see a number of new HD channels. In Eastern Europe we actually have one of our customers which already has an HD channel up on the terrestrial network in Bucharest.

Satellite News: How will your growth strategy differ from your predecessor?

Sjödin: I had been working closely together with Per Norman as part of a new management team. The path we are following, I think, is the right path. There might be some changes, but we need to adjust to some market changes. I think the most important thing is we keep up with the local knowledge and the local content so that we can grow together with the customers and understand the challenges they have, especially in the Eastern European market, where there could be dramatic changes.
In terms of growing profits, it is about choosing the right customers to grow with will secure the bottom line for us. Having a new satellite with a much better footprint than before will be vital. With switchable transponders, we can change overnight the beams from Nordic to European coverage or vice versa. This is a great advantage that we have for the new satellite. We will always find customers for the available capacity that we have.

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