Media Networks CTO Explains Bold Ka-Band LatAm Move
Media Networks, a B2B unit of Telefonica Digital, selected Hughes Network Systems to supply a Jupiter High-Throughput System (HTS) to power what is claimed to be the first commercial Ka-band service over Latin America. The deal makes Media Networks, one of the major wholesale distributors of satellite Direct-to-Home (DTH TV) and Ku-band satellite Internet in the region, the first customer of the Jupiter system outside of North America.
In an exclusive interview with Via Satellite, Pedro Planas, CTO, Media Networks, comments about the deal and how it fits in the company’s overall strategic plan.
VIA SATELLITE: Could you comment a bit more on the Ka-band project? What are your goals? What services will you offer? Why Ka-band?
Planas: Our Ka-band satellite Internet project (ISAT-KA), to be implemented next October, will deploy in its initial phase nine beams with a coverage of 125,000 square kilometers each, over the territories of Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, where we will offer our white labeled ISAT-KA wholesale service, with similar features with the DTH wholesale service Media Networks provides to important operators in Latin America.
VIA SATELLITE: Why did Media Networks decide to partner with Hughes for this project? What did Hughes offer that its competitors did not?
Planas: The selection of Hughes to provide the base band to our ISAT-KA project is the result of a demanding bidding process, in which four of the most important market players participated. During the selection process, we assessed various aspects such as the maximum and minimum bits/Hertz levels, power consumption and the experience in the use of VSAT platforms for household services with a high number of subscribers, among others.
VIA SATELLITE: How does Ka-band compare with Ku-band? Is rain fade and weather conditions in the region a concern for you?
Planas: Unlike Ku-band, the Ka-band link has speed changes depending on the intensity of the rainfall. We have an ACM platform that offsets weather factors and guarantees continuity of the service.
VIA SATELLITE: How does this project fit Media Networks’ overall strategy? What will it offer to your customers?
Planas: It consolidates us as the main wholesale pay-TV and satellite Internet supplier in Latin America. We have developed a strong platform of satellite services (based on our DTH wholesale service), which complements the new ISAT-KA service. It gives to the operators who are already working with us in Latin America, and have in Media Networks a strategic partner, new growth opportunities to boost their development in the household market. Our satellite business is based on the principle of shared infrastructure and our services are white labeled, so that each operator entirely define its products and control all the commercial aspects of its business (branding, pricing, billing, etc.) while leaving to Media Networks the rest of the job. We have flexible, turnkey solutions that are adapted to the needs of each operator and we implement them in the shortest time-to-market in the industry.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the main challenges this project presents to Media Networks?
Planas: The challenge to be the first in bringing Ka-band encourages and inspires our team positively. Globally, we are going to be the fourth operator that will launch such a platform. We have lots of hope in this project, because it has a huge potential to make broadband access universal in Latin America and open a new era for telecommunications in the region.
VIA SATELLITE: What do you see as the potential growth drivers for Media Networks business?
Planas: Without any doubt, they are both DTH and Internet along our line of satellite service business. DTH expansion constitutes a world trend. We have already seen it in other parts of the globe and it is now happening in Latin America, where DTH is already the main pay-TV platform in Brazil and Mexico, the main markets in the region. It is along the same line that, in a supplementary way and by making use of the same infrastructure, we have also developed Go Digital, a solution designed to digitalize analog pay-TV networks of small and medium-sized operators (always under the white label model which is one of our distinctive features). With the launch of the ISAT-KA wholesale service, Media Networks shall continue along the same line and has the ideal supplement to keep offering service alternatives to our customers, just as we continue developing our satellite platform.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you assess the satellite market in Latin America? What impact will Ka-band have the region?
Planas: The satellite market is growing globally. In Latin America, just like in the rest of the world, there is constantly more DTH in the pay-TV industry and such trend is going to continue increasing. On the other hand, ISAT-KA seems to be specially designed for Latin America, where we face the challenge posed by the combination of large territories and scattered populations. In such a scenario, we think ISAT-KA is complements fixed and mobile networks in order to make broadband access universal in Latin America.
VIA SATELLITE: Do you see major regulatory issues in Latin America impacting the satellite business?
Planas: No, since it is a new technology, regulators should pay attention to the promotion and development of this new industry, which is to play an increasingly important role in telecoms in Latin America.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you see the communications landscape changing over the next 12 months? How do you hope to position Media Networks on this landscape?
Planas: In Media Networks we believe and bet on the development of telecoms in Latin America. Under that vision, we foresee growth opportunities in an open environment that promotes the use of new technologies and services that may increase people’s living standards.