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SpeedCast CEO Sees Maritime, Cellular Opportunities

By | June 16, 2009

      SpeedCast, a subsidiary of AsiaSat, is a multi-faceted service provider in Asia specializing in delivering to land or sea communications solutions ranging from broadband Internet to managed bandwidth to triple-play networks.

          The company has made some significant moves in the maritime sector, launching earlier this year a new SeaCast service designed for yachts, fishing boats and smaller coastal or river vessels. This follows on from an announcement in late 2008 that SpeedCast was teaming with Eutelsat to jointly launch a maritime broadband communications service addressing the commercial shipping sector.

          SpeedCast CEO Pierre-Jean Beylier spoke with Satellite News about how the operator plans to attack growth segments in the region.


      Satellite News: What impact has the global economy had on the Asian satellite market?

      Beylier: Growth opportunities are still there, but decisionmaking is slower than usual, as our customers are particularly cautious and waiting to see signs of recovery before spending. Churn has been very limited so far, and I can therefore say that we have not seen any major negative impact on our business. Actually there seems to be some positive impacts. The current economic downturn is pushing our customers to reduce capital expenditures and consequently to look for managed services. Managed network services are SpeedCast’s core expertise, whether it is a cellular network (voice traffic) or an enterprise network (data, VoIP, video). There are some interesting growth opportunities in this environment.

      Overall, I have the impression that satellite players in Asia have not been much affected by the crisis. This is probably related to the fact that emerging markets in Asia, which are growing users of satellite capacity, have not been hit too badly by the crisis, will get out of it quickly and need satellite for much required rural infrastructure projects. Secondly, communications on the move are growing and emergency preparedness has become a priority in the wake of repeated man-made or human-made disasters in the last five years. Last but not least, the fill up rate in Asia is high both in C-band and Ku-band, so the satellite operators are in a rather strong position facing this crisis.


      Satellite News: What are the hot topics in the Asia-Pacific satellite market?

      Beylier: Firstly, communications on the move will continue gaining momentum and being talked about as emphasized by the rise of maritime VSATs. Secondly, the tight supply of both C-band and Ku-band capacity is a concern for many players and we will certainly hear about that and about new satellite launches. Some view Ka-band spot-beams satellites with much more bandwidth as a solution to the problem and as the next evolution for the satellite industry. New modulation techniques allowing for higher efficiency are a more short-term way to cope with the shortage issue. We are spending quite some time at SpeedCast testing new technologies.


      Satellite News: Does SpeedCast believe it will grow profits and revenues in 2009?

      Beylier: We will definitely grow revenues and profits significantly this year. It is a strong year so far. A major challenge in the near future will be the upcoming shortage of satellite capacity, especially in C-band. Another challenge, as we grow, is the need to attract new talents and identify the best people around; we certainly have to go outside the satellite industry to bring new skills. Being a service company it is fundamental for us to find outstanding, team-spirited and customer-minded people who have the capability to go the extra mile supporting our customers. SpeedCast support has a certain recognition in the market, and we want to continue building on that. Lastly, in our business, technology evolves constantly and it is very important and challenging for us to keep identifying new technologies that can enable new services, features or cost efficiencies and allow us to stay ahead.


      Satellite News: What do you see as the potential growth markets for SpeedCast?

      Beylier: Our current priorities area all significant growth opportunities: SeaCast, our maritime and offshore services, CelCast, our cellular backhaul services where we are pioneering IP-based solutions, and MobiCast, our turnkey mobile TV platform enabling Celcos to launch cost-effective and quality mobile TV services. In these three areas it seems we are ahead of the game in Asia and our main objective is to remain ahead. There are a few other industry verticals where we see some interesting progress, but it is too early to talk about it. In terms of geographic expansion, in addition to our usual South East and South Asia markets, we see some opportunities for us in China, and we are taking a closer look at the Middle East-Africa markets with the opening of an office in Dubai.


      Satellite News: What is the significance of the launch of SeaCast service in conjunction with Eutelsat?

      Beylier: We launched the SeaCast service in September 2007 as one of our key vertical solutions, addressing initially commercial shipping and offshore markets, although since then, we have expanded our service to also cater for the needs of smaller vessels in the yachts and fishing markets. We partnered with Eutelsat because there were lots of synergies between us. We are not just service providers of maritime and offshore service we are also the satellite (AsiaSat our mother company is) and teleport operators, allowing us greater control and flexibility. We are continuously working together to expand our coverage and service and bring out new product features which are first to market for our customers. For example, we were the first to bring out to market seamless automatic beam switching in Ku-band. This allows our customers to switch between different Ku-band beams without having to modify or reconfigure their VSAT antennas or any other equipment on-board.

          In addition, we have also developed some key value-added services which we think are vital to our addressable markets, such as quality voice services from vessels whether they use normal telephones or cellular phones, video surveillance, video on board vessels and monitoring and tracking of vessels, to mention a few. Since the launch of our maritime service, which we co-market with Eutelsat under the slogan Connecting Oceans, we have seen tremendous growth and interest from the major shipping and offshore companies as well as yacht owners, as they all evolve into using broadband communications more and want to be able to do it anywhere they go. Our expectations for the first year have been well surpassed, and we look forward to the next few years with equal excitement and commitment in helping the maritime industry to generalize always-on broadband communications at sea.


      Satellite News: How do you view the mobile video opportunity for SpeedCast?

      Beylier: We are still at a very early stage in the development of mobile TV services in emerging Asian markets, but I have no doubt it will be big in Asia because of favorable demographic, cultural and economic specificities. 3G operators across the region are gearing towards the launch of new and more advanced mobile TV services and interestingly are keen more than in the past to explore outsourced solutions. The economic downturn is probably putting pressure on capex and our zero-capex managed services are, therefore, gaining some ground and they also contribute thanks to economies of scale to lower opex. I am confident that SpeedCast will be able to launch with 10 more operators over the next 12 months. Our DVB-H headend in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent is now operational and I am hopeful we will have a few trials this year. However, I believe we will need to wait till the second half of 2010 or maybe even 2011 to see some significant activities on the DVB-H front. Overall, our mobile TV business is a long-term bet. We are currently taking positions with key operators, which we believe will be successful, and if they are we will be as their outsourcing partner.


      Satellite News: Do you see any significant changes happening on the Asia communications landscape over the next year?

      Beylier: Outsourcing will grow, and that is definitely a positive evolution for us. It will also lead, I believe, to closer cooperations between service companies like SpeedCast, the satellite operators and the technology vendors in order to provide better solutions to the cellular operators and generate more value for all stakeholders through new creative business models. The maritime industry is embracing VSAT-based broadband services, and that will lead some satellite operators to move some steerable Ku-band beams over the water and to design new satellites with maritime beams. After 40 years of designing geostationary satellites with coverage contours sticking as close as possible to land, we are entering a new era for the satellite industry. Lastly, I would like to see some consolidation in the VSAT sector, and SpeedCast will certainly try to play a role in that process, but it will be a long process that will take much more than a year.

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