David Pollack President and CEO, Spacecom
Space-Communication Ltd. (Spacecom) hopes its Amos-5 satellite, scheduled for launch in 2010, will enable Spacecom to become a key player in Africa, essentially a new market for the operator. David Pollack, Spacecom’s president and CEO, says Africa is a “great opportunity” and discusses the operator’s plans in Africa as well as traditional markets such as Europe.
VIA SATELLITE: What impact will Amos-5 have in Asia and Africa?
Pollack: With 36 powerful C-band and Ku-band transponders, the satellite will provide tremendous coverage throughout the African continent and into Europe and the Middle East. We are planning to have one dedicated pan-African C-band beam and three steerable Ku-band beams to serve the burgeoning African market. Amos-5 will place Spacecom at the forefront of operators delivering comprehensive and flexible services to a wide range of DTH broadcasters, VSATs, telecommunication operators and others. Our goal is to reach pre-launch sales of at least 50 percent of the capacity on Amos-5 by the middle of next year. Based on the market’s response so far, I think we are on track to meet this target.
The Amos-4 program, initiated in mid-2007, is a longer term program than the Amos-5 program and is on track to meeting its construction milestones and goals. Amos-4 will provide services in the East, Central and Southern Asian markets as well as augment those of Amos-5 in Africa to truly extend Spacecom’s reach and transform us into a global satellite service provider.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the new market opportunities for Spacecom?
Pollack: We see Africa, with its growing broadcast and telecom markets, as a great opportunity for Spacecom. I believe our competitive advantages will enhance our penetration to the sub-Saharan market. From an economic point of view, these are not the best of times, but I have learned that hard times generate business opportunities. Even though there may be a great deal of uncertainty out there, our job is to capitalize on these uncertainties and turn them into opportunities by making the right moves, decreasing risks and helping our clients achieve their goals.
VIA SATELLITE: How much capacity do you have sold across your fleet? What trends are you seeing in terms of transponder pricing?
Pollack: We have worked hard to make our 4 degrees West neighborhood over Central Eastern Europe very attractive, and I am happy to say our fleet is almost fully occupied with fill rates in the range of 90 to 95 percent.
VIA SATELLITE: What trends are you seeing in terms of transponder pricing?
Pollack: The trends we have been seeing in our business in the past two years is an increasing demand for capacity, lagging supply and rising prices. In fact, in some cases, customers go wanting because they can’t find capacity at any price. Having said that, we are noticing cyclical behavior patterns in this market, meaning that prices will not always be where they are today. All in all, with growing demand for satellite services, driven by bandwidth hungry applications such as HDTV, etc., I think that in the foreseeable future prices will pretty much stay where they are today, depending on the region where services are provided and the amount of available capacity in that region.
VIA SATELLITE: What are your prospects in the DTH arena?
Pollack: Spacecom’s aim is to provide superior broadcasting and communications services to DTH operators, TV broadcasters and programmers, government organizations, and VSAT network operators. We currently serve three DTH platforms on the Amos satellite constellation: T-Home Sat TV in Hungary, Boom TV in Romania and Yes in Israel. These platforms currently broadcast more than 300 channels, including many HD channels. We are working very hard to add new DTH platforms to the three existing ones, and I hope to be able to elaborate more in the near future.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you view the HD opportunity for Spacecom?
Pollack: By the end of 2009, we expect to have more than 15 HD channels broadcast on the Amos constellation. HD opportunities are growing and we do expect to place new HD channels on our satellites. Sports broadcasting in HD is especially exciting in the new markets we are targeting in Asia and Africa as well as in our traditional Central European and Middle Eastern markets. I am very bullish on HD.
VIA SATELLITE: Will Spacecom have a plan in satellite broadband services?
Pollack: We see a lot of growth potential in this market, especially with Amos-5 over Africa and Amos-4 in Asia, where satellites play a major role in bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Ka-band is a direction that we chose several years ago. Amos-3, launched last year and designed three years prior, already supports Ka-band with both steerable and fixed beams. Amos-4 will also support steerable Ka-band beams. The Amos-6 program, which has not yet been launched, will also have both Ka-band and Ku-band beams. We see the potential of Ka-band not only for broadband but also for broadcasting applications. High demand for capacity is being driven by the growth of HD transmissions and the scarcity of available frequencies in Ku-band, among other reasons.
VIA SATELLITE: Is the economy having an impact on Spacecom?
Pollack: One major effect of the global economic downturn is that it has made raising capital to launch new satellites more difficult. This fact has affected Spacecom, but we are continuing with our capital raising plans, which, because we are a public company, cannot be disclosed until they are complete. I can say that our investors are quite satisfied with our performance and are continuing to support our business strategy.
VIA SATELLITE: What role do you see the company playing in satellite services?
Pollack: Spacecom plans to expand our reach into new service areas around the world with Amos-4, which will provide coverage in Asia, and Amos-5 providing services Africa. We are planning future Amos satellites to enhance our offerings in existing markets, including Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. We are always considering new initiatives with potential partners to increase our presence and offer additional services to our clients. Our goal is to transform Spacecom from a leading regional player to an emerging global provider in the satellite communications industry.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the major challenges for Spacecom?
Pollack: My aim is to guide Spacecom successfully through the current economic and financial turmoil, ensuring that we do not stray from our charted course of growth. We are capitalizing on the momentum of our successful launch of the Amos-3 satellite in 2008 to position the company for growth in new and existing markets in 2009, into 2010 and beyond. In the next 12 months, our focus will be on Amos-5, especially on its construction and launch timetable as well as on preparations to initiate service in Africa.