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Sirius 4 High On Agenda For Nordic Satellite

By | June 19, 2002

      Nordic Satellite AB (NSAB) is still evaluating options concerning the possible launch of its planned Sirius 4 satellite. NSAB CEO Lennart Hallkvist told Interspace in an exclusive interview that the operator was planning to evaluate the situation before the end of the year.

      “Sirius 4 will come when we need it for expansion in the Nordic market and outside Scandinavia,” he said. “We have not signed any contract with any satellite manufacturer yet. We are evaluating different options. This is very high on our agenda. It is very difficult to say when we would sign anything by. Our prime objective is to assure that we can provide our customers with the capacity needed at the right moment,” he added.

      NSAB is keeping its options open regarding Sirius 4. “It is not definite that we will launch Sirius 4. We are keeping all options open. It depends on the market situation. As it looks now, and the growth we expect from broadband in Scandinavia, as well as the all types of services in the markets in central and eastern Europe, we will need more capacity,” Hallkvist said.

      While Sirius 4 may be high on the agenda, the operator is set for a busy year. While it expects 2002 revenues to remain flat, it is focusing on two main areas: deriving greater revenues from broadband in Scandinavia and establishing a greater presence in central and eastern Europe.

      Hallkvist said of the broadband opportunity in Scandinavia, “PC penetration in the Nordic market is very high. It is one of the highest figures in the world. Secondly, we are working in countries with a huge geographic reach and relatively small populations. Thirdly now more than 600,000 digital households are receiving from Sirius with a private dish. These are market factors that work in our favour.”

      The other main target area is to expand its international presence. NSAB has established uplinks in Riga and Kiev already and sees this as a growing market going forward. Hallkvist said: “Here we see quite a large opportunity. We have opened up a rep office in Kiev in the Ukraine. We have turned that into a revenue generating market in two years. We are working in Romania, Hungary, Poland and Belarus. They will slowly but steadily represent a higher portion of our turnover in the coming years.”

      The generation of revenues from international operations and broadband are particularly important as NSAB is seeing very little growth from the radio and TV broadcasting side of the business. The immediate focus will be on local broadband opportunities. NSAB has signed a contract with local ISP Swepet to provide a one-way Internet satellite service in Sweden. Hallkvist commented: “In the Nordic markets, there are various types of terrestrial links so a lot of people can get DSL and cable connections for broadband. We are focusing on the part of the market, which will in the medium term not have terrestrial links. In Sweden, that is close to one million households. I think there is a very good market for broadband over satellite for those households.”

      NSAB is 50 percent owned by SES Global. Hallkvist believes the operator gains “several benefits” from this partnership. “The partnership with SES Global gives us synergies in terms of the optimization of satellite fleets and it is also in this light the future of a Sirius 4 satellite should be seen. We gain several benefits from this partnership. The most important one is really when it comes to co-development of broadband services were we now have launched the Astra-Net platform also from Sirius but also in investments in industrial areas to make sure that broadband over satellite becomes a success. We also have synergies when it comes to the purchasing of satellites, uplinks and insurance etc.”

      The company has no balance sheet issues. It appears its priority right now is deciding whether to go forward with Sirius 4. Hallkvist appears undecided. He commented: “There may be other options within the SES Global group. One example is that the Astra 1A satellite was moved earlier this year to the orbital position 5 degrees East, and it is now being used together with other SES Global partners for different services. We could make a co-operation with one or the other partners. We might co-locate one other satellite or we might we go for a new satellite.”

      –Mark Holmes

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