TSbc CEO Outlines Plans For Thor 7 and Beyond

[Satellite News 06-13-12] Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSBc) signed one of its most important contracts last year last year with Space Systems/Loral to build its Thor 7 satellite. The deal provided TSBc with a satellite fitted with a Ka-band payload, as well as the capacity it needed to cement its position in the European market.

  Though the satellite is unlikely to enter commercial service until early 2014, TSBc CEO Cato Halsaa told Satellite News that the operator is aleady thinking about potential new satellites beyond Thor 7.
 
Satellite News: How much capacity have you now sold on Thor 6? Is this in line with your own projections?
 
Halsaa: Thor 6 has been very successful for us. We have achieved all the targets that we have set in the business plan. The capacity take-up has been in line with our projections. It has established itself as a leading location in the Central and Eastern Europe for DTH services. We have a similar number in Nordics. We are marketing the rest of the capacity to DTH operators in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), as well as broadcasters looking for further distribution of their channels. We need to find the appropriate balance to maintain capacity, as well as availability to grow for current customers. We have sold between 80-85 percent of capacity on Thor 6.
 
Satellite News: What are your targets in terms of pre-selling capacity on Thor 7?
 
Halsaa: We are not setting targets, but half of Thor 7 will be Ka-band, so we will be targeting the maritime market. So, perhaps pre-selling Ka-band capacity is not the right thing to do. We will build the market. So, for the maritime VSAT market, we may have different selling solutions. For the Ku-band capacity, there are opportunities for pre-selling. We have already the first customer for that capacity. We have a contract with Norsk Ramsenter. TSBc will provide a communications link from Antarctica for Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), utilising dedicated satellite capacity on Thor 7.
 
Satellite News: Have you made capital expenditure plans for further satellites?
 
Halsaa: As a satellite operator, we are always looking at opportunities. For now, our focus is to have success with Thor 7. We have enough on our plates in order to make sure Thor 7 is successful once it is launched. The further concrete plans will come after that.
 
Satellite News: At SATELLITE 2012, Boeing and SpaceX announced deals for ‘all electric’ satellites and launches with ABS and Satmex. Is this something Telenor would consider?
 
Halsaa: I think so. This is something we would absolutely consider. We are very conservative. But, we are also following trends. But, when we started our pre-planning on Thor 7, Ka-band was definitely part of the equation. We felt it was the way to go. Here, is another opportunity to use technology. The technology has been around for a while. But, now it has been commercialized with these Boeing satellites. More people will look into that. It is certainly a great commercial proposition. It would certainly be an interesting thing for us to consider. We feel confident that SpaceX will succeed. Therefore, that combination of an electric satellite with a SpaceX launch will be very attractive for us for the future.
 
Satellite News: Do you see any hosted payload opportunities for TSBc?
 
Halsaa: Yes. We have been looking at several opportunities for hosted payload deals. But, for Thor 7 it is too late. But, our next potential satellite could combine with another payload. That is a very attractive proposition. Realistically, any announcement here is around 2-3 years away.
 
Satellite News: How do you see the demands for Ka-band on Thor 7?
 
Halsaa: I don’t think our views on Ka-band capacity has changed over the last 6-12 months. If anything, we have seen more and more interest. Ka-band is not a strange satellite animal any more. It is becoming more of a growth opportunity. We have never talked about having a consumer broadband proposition. This is not the target for us. We are looking to provide coverage for the oil and gas and maritime markets, particularly in Northern Europe. That is really key for us. We have already signed into contracts of some of our maritime service providers that they will start selling Ka-band capacity. We are really confident about Ka-band, and that it will meet customer requirements. It will provide more efficiency and more capacity.
 
Satellite News: What do you see as the major growth drivers for the business in 2012?
 
Halsaa: We see that our headline revenues will be flat until we launch Thor 7. There are positive underlying trends. We see increased volumes in the data traffic market, as well as in broadcast traffic. We are seeing long-term renewed contracts for data communications and broadcasting. We have some good growth. But, in this very competitive market, pricing has taken a hit. That is why revenues have been flat. We are also anticipating a record year for our Occasional Use (OU) market, as well as the maritime market.
 
Satellite News: What do you see as the major challenges for the company to grow the business in 2012?
 
Halsaa: We are in Europe. The economic conditions are challenging. We hope to continue to grow, and book capacity on Thor 7. This will be our main focus. Business is not just coming through your door any more. You have to fight very hard for it. And we are doing that like everyone else. 

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