Another major telco owning and running its own satellite fleet is Singapore-based SingTel. Adding together its two operational satellites (ST-2 and ST-1, which will be decommissioned next year, although by then ST-3 will also have come online) with the five operational birds owned by its Australian subsidiary Optus, the SingTel group’s fleet has 75 percent of the world population on its line of sight.
“Why do we need to run our own satellites? Because when you own your own satellites and are able to expand your fiber network, you get the same kind of control, same kind of flexibility that we have been leveraging on in the submarine cable world to give customers the most optimal network experience,” says Titus Yong, vice president of satellite for SingTel.
“As a satellite operator, you’re able to provide customers with an optimum footprint, for example, whether it’s in terms of antenna size or with regards to modulation capability. And owning the teleports to support this space segment also allows us to provide a higher level of managed services and managed security for them. Obviously, we can’t cover the whole world — and that’s not our intention at all. Therefore, we partner with other satellite operators to provide [services] even farther. But our focus is very much decision-making in Asia Pacific, implementation into neighboring emerging regions (such as Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands) and that’s where I think our satellite footprint strategy will continue to be executed.”
As far as the specific services that are driving demand for the growing capacity that the telco is currently building in space, Yong identifies four key segments, the first being maritime. “Even though the maritime market is characterized by having very global footprint requirements, in this part of the world there is a lot of induced traffic requirement on our satellites serving offshore oil rigs and the shipping industry.”
He notes the second segment as broadcast industry. “There are a number of DTH licenses being issued in many of the emerging countries in Asia. And we are starting to serve them. The take-up rate from new subscribers is tremendous. In India, for example, a typical pay-TV ARPU could be only $5 or $6 a month; but they are adding millions on a monthly basis. That ultimately increases the satellite capacity you require to support what I call ‘general channels.’ As these pay-TV DTH operators move into offering higher-tier services, many of them are starting to do regional segmentation of channels. And that adds a lot more requirements to the use of capacity for us,” Yong explains.
The two other sectors generating business for SingTel’s satellite division are the corporate market (including NGOs and governments) and Internet service providers. “The proliferation of devices for Internet access in emerging markets is really amazing,” says Yong. “That drives the need for many ISPs in these emerging countries to look for more bandwidth. The sad news for them — but good news for us — is that terrestrial support in these countries is still not mature enough. They do not have enough peering traffic capability to the United States, Europe or China for that matter. So many of these people are using Singapore SingTel as a gateway, and that requires a lot of backhaul trunk capacity from those countries into Singapore for Internet traffic upstream and downstream.”
In Latin America, where Telefónica and Grupo Telmex easily dominate the regional telecoms landscape, both companies have taken advantage of satellite to set up pay-TV operations. América Móvil (the mobile arm of Telmex that ended up absorbing the telco) has gone as far as becoming Latin America’s largest provider of pay-TV. The company boasts more than 11 million subscribers (all of them outside of Mexico), with DTH being just one of its multiple delivery platforms.
Telefónica is, without a doubt, the telco that has more intelligently been able to exploit what satellite has to offer in a region like Latin America when it comes to pay-TV. The Spanish-based group set up a company called Media Networks Latin America (MNLA) that developed a white label DTH product.
From its network operations center in Lima, Peru, MNLA broadcasts some 500 standard and HD channels via satellite that smaller telcos, cable companies or even electricity suppliers based anywhere in South America can use to launch their own pay-TV brands.
Javier Izquierdo, head of wholesale operations at MNLA, says 17 different regional operators are already downlinking Telefónica’s white label DTH bouquet and reselling it to five million people. “In Latin America there are a series of deficiencies — especially with regards to terrestrial infrastructure — which turn DTH into the most appropriate option.”