In March this year, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) signed an agreement that will see the RadioAstron satellite mission collaborating with radio astronomy facilities in Africa. The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the 5th BRICS summit in Durban.
In the field of space, the BRICS countries are becoming more interwoven together than ever before. China has made important strides into Latin America through China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), which has been involved in a plethora of deals in this region. In 2011, China and Venezuela signed a contract for the VRSS-1 remote sensing satellite program with CGWIC as the prime contractor. In 2010, CGWIC and the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) also signed a satellite deal. Additionally, China is working with Brazil on the CBERS remote sensing satellites program as CGWIC continues to seek more opportunities in the region.
Brazil and India
Brazil has averaged almost 5 percent GDP growth over the last six years and remains major market for satellite communications, particularly given the low levels of pay-TV penetration (less than 25 percent), a growing middle class, and an economy on a consistent upswing. Government projects such as the school connectivity project GESAC, which uses 12,000 Embratel links, provide further evidence of the need for satellite.
Star One, one of the major satellite operators in the market, saw its Star One C3 satellite successfully launch in November 2012, and according to Gustavo Silbert, Star One’s CEO, the satellite has brought “expansion opportunities” for the operator.
“This new satellite replaces some of our existing C-band capacity but brings the equivalent of 32 new 36 MHz Ku-band transponders for the fleet that covers not only Brazil but all South America. Certain areas from the Brazilian government intend to expand existing VSAT networks for digital inclusion and other applications in 2013 and this may bring new business opportunities for Star One,” he says.
Marzio Laurenti, Telespazio Brazil CEO, says the major problem in the market could be a lack of capacity.
“Today, in Brazil, the fill rates for capacity are higher than 90 percent. The situation today, is that for sure there is a shortage of Ku-band capacity. This is a fact. I think the shortage of Ku-band capacity is expected to last for the next two years. In terms of C-band, there is not a large availability, but I think the difficult situation is more in Ku-band. There is little Ku-band available today in the market. Access to Ku-band is important for the services we want to provide,” he says.
Certainly, it is a market on the up, and whether for Direct-to-Home (DTH) players like DirecTV Latin America or major enterprises like Petrobras, one of the world’s biggest oil companies, the demands for satellite are strong.
“Satellite solutions will remain very important to us, as much as it has been in the past,” says Firmiano Ramos Perlingeiro, head of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at Petrobras. “Petrobras has an optical fiber ring of 500 km in the Campos Basin connecting several rigs. This ring may be extended for other units in the future, but it depends on the business evolution and the economic feasibility. We expect providers of satellite communications solutions to deliver higher performance and low delays in communication, and mainly, lower prices. Demands for new offshore exploration of pre-salt reserves are a strong reason for using VSAT. There is no doubt about the importance of satellite communication for the oil and gas industry,” he says.