Owning Satellite Assets
Verizon doesn’t own any space-based infrastructure, relying instead on capacity leased from SES, Intelsat and other operators. But that doesn’t mean that other big telcos aren’t taking a different approach. Telenor Group, Norway’s incumbent and one of Europe’s largest telecoms service providers, has a subsidiary Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSB) that is in practice a full-blown satellite operator.
“Telenor’s satellite fleet is used to deliver data communications services (of which the fastest growing part is maritime VSAT) and broadcast services,” says Lars Janols, chief sales officer, Telenor Satellite Broadcasting. “Traditionally, Telenor has had an interest in maritime communication due to Norway’s shipping and fishing sectors, which was then further elevated by the development of the Norwegian offshore oil and gas industry. Satellite communication has always been a vital communication tool for these industries.”
On the DTH side, the company currently broadcasts nearly 700 TV channels and hundreds of radio stations, mainly to the Nordic region and to Central and Eastern Europe. In total, 17 million households receive audiovisual content transmitted by the Oslo-based satellite subsidiary of Telenor.
The IPTV concept was born in the late 1990s out of the desperate realization by telcos that they would have to become triple-play operators to survive. DSL was beginning to evolve into more powerful iterations of the technology. It seemed logical at the time that the same IP networks which telcos had been creating — or rather, adapting — for residential broadband access should also be used to overlay pay-TV services.
So a number of telcos did just that. While it worked, it was soon evident that IPTV service provision via even the most advanced ADSL2+ standard faced insurmountable challenges. Even in France, one of the countries that led the world in IPTV rollouts and subscriber numbers, telcos experienced limitations — both in terms of geographic reach and network capacity.
Philippe Rouxel, chief marketing officer of GlobeCast (an Orange-France Telecom company), comments, “Orange’s main challenge was to be within reach of every possible home in France,” he remembers. “They had initially launched a TV offer on DSL, but this was only available to ‘eligible’ customers — those close enough to the DSL gateways to have sufficient bandwidth for TV. To make this offer available to the several millions of Orange DSL customers not eligible for IPTV, satellite was the most effective option. It was more cost-effective than adding density to Orange’s DSL network and it was also far faster to implement.”
Like Orange in France, Portugal Telecom in Portugal, TP in Poland and Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia have all recently decided to reinforce their previously launched IPTV services with HD TV-friendlier, nationwide available DTH transmissions.
Other telcos in Europe are going a step further. TeliaSonera, one of Scandinavia’s major telcos comprising of the incumbents of Sweden (Telia) and Finland (Sonera), signed a deal in 2011 with Eutelsat to bring satellite broadband services to Finland. It seems Ka-band has made all the difference there. Jorma Hämäläinen, TeliaSonera’s director of satellite services, says “Our country Finland is quite long. We have about 18 inhabitants per square kilometer. Around a third of the population is in the southern part of Finland. There are a lot of rural areas in the country, and it is difficult and challenging to provide sufficient speed via fixed-lined services. Of course every day we are building up our fiber capability and 3G/4G services, but there are customers who are not very well provided by those services. This is the reason why we need to have these satellite services in the near future. This will be a good tool for us to provide these new connection services to customers. Satellite services can now provide up to 6 Mbps to 10 Mbps in terms of speeds.”