AsiaSat 6 Contract Decision Expected Within Three Months
AsiaSat CEO Peter Jackson told Satellite News, “We plan to issue a request for proposal before the end of this month and we expect to announce the successful tenderer in 2-3 months time. The contract will be signed by the end of the year.”
Jackson said that AsiaSat 6 will be a significant satellite for the operator.
“We are bringing the AsiaSat 6 procurement forward just in case there is a problem with AsiaSat 5,” said Jackson. “If there is a problem with AsiaSat 5, we can speed up AsiaSat 6, and get AsiaSat 6 to replace AsiaSat 2 before AsiaSat 2 runs out of fuel. AsiaSat 6 will be a satellite similar to that of AsiaSat 3S with a C/Ku band payload. We see it as a very important satellite because AsiaSat 2 is supporting a number of MCPC (Multiple Channel Per Carrier) platforms that bring many European and Middle Eastern channels to Asia, as well as a large number of occasional services.”
While AsiaSat 6 is likely to be hybrid Ku/C band satellite, Jackson is unsure at this point of a potential Ka-band satellite strategy for the operator.
“There is nothing really special about a Ka-band satellite,” said Jackson. “At the moment, we have plenty of Ku-band available, and we could put up more Ku-band satellites. We certainly see a lot more use for Ku-band. Asia does have a rain fade issue with Ku and it is slightly worse with Ka-band but nothing that serious. We need to find a real Ka-band business plan that works before we would go into a large Ka-band satellite. We are assuming the application will be providing interactive services in the home for example but right now, I have not seen a business plan that really works.”
Although AsiaSat 5 and AsiaSat 6 are in the pipeline, Jackson commented on the possibilities of an AsiaSat 7.
“That will probably be a specialized satellite in a new frequency band, or providing Ku-band, where there is a Ku-band shortage,” said Jackson. “There is no real timeline at the moment.”
Recent Results and Growth Markets
AsiaSat announced its half-year results, which saw the operator increase revenues by six percent but its overall profits decline compared to the same stage last year.
Jackson said the results were in line with the company’s own expectations.
“We have seen the market start to improve and the changes in profit were expected,” said Jackson. “The main thing we are looking at is the revenue increase and where it was coming from, and whether it indicated a long-term period of sustainable growth that we were entering or was it a one-off blip. We are quite pleased to see there was a general increase of activity in the region.”
Jackson said the company expects revenues to continue on an upward curve.
He added, “I think by the end of the year there will be some changes. Our costs have gone up slightly, which was fully expected but I think the future is going to be based on the revenue. As long as we can hit the revenue, the costs are under control and we don’t have any new expected costs coming in. I think over time, even if you have one-off hits in terms of revenues or expenses, the trend for AsiaSat seems to be up, whereas for a lot of satellite operators in Asia, the trend has been down for a considerable period of time.”
In terms of the potential growth markets for the operator, Jackson says the company sees opportunity in delivering exclusive video content in countries where new distribution platforms are starting up.
“We see content needing to be delivered to the whole region and growth developing quite rapidly,” said Jackson. “On the telecoms side, we are seeing a real polarization. I do not believe the bulk Internet or GSM backbone type of traffic has got a long life. I think the use of a satellite is a very effective way to meet demand for communications in remote areas. However, it is only a short-term use of capacity and ultimately I believe it will be taken over by the terrestrial networks.”
The operator also aims to pick up more government business. Jackson noted that governments are trying to make sure their remote locations have mobile phone and Internet services.
“We are seeing growth in all of those applications and with the need to cover the whole country, satellite is an ideal way of providing these services,” said Jackson. “It is currently a big market, but the question is how long it will last.”