Year in Review Part Four: William Wade, CEO of AsiaSat
[Via Satellite 01-07-2016] AsiaSat CEO William Wade believes events at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) were the most critical of the year for the satellite industry, hailing it as a “key win” for the industry in an interview with Via Satellite. He says the win for the industry, especially in Asia where there was no change to the existing allocation of the C-band 3600 – 4200 MHz frequencies, was a great result after a significant effort by people all across the satellite industry.
Wade believes this serves to protect the many vital satellite communications services throughout the world, particularly in developing and sparsely populated countries that rely on C-band satellite services to support their economic development. He also pointed out that additional FSS spectrum had been allocated in the Ku-band to cope with the increased demand for spectrum to support applications such as VSAT services, broadband Internet and backhaul links.
2015 was an exciting year for the satellite industry as we saw a number of new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) initiatives launched, bringing new excitement and buzz to the satellite industry. Wade believes the new proposed LEO broadband constellations are drawing a lot of attention and, if implemented, will have more of an impact than those in the 1990s.
“With the advances in technology, increasing power, extending the satellite life and lowering the cost to launch these satellites, the chances are high that one or two will be launched and, if so, they will have an impact on our industry. However, it’s hard to predict which project will become a reality or be successful as there are still many issues for them to overcome; for example, developing workable low cost ground terminals that track LEO satellites and the potential interference risk to GEO satellites,” he said.
AsiaSat itself had a busy year in 2015, with perhaps the key event for the company, a significant rebrand as it looks to position itself for growth going forward. “I think our rebrand campaign introduced earlier this year is one of the most important. This is the first rebrand exercise since our establishment in 1988. With the introduction of our new logo, new brand values and expanded communications platforms, we have re-energized the company not only externally, but also internally with a push to change our company culture. We have also introduced new ways of doing things in order to provide ever better services to our customers,” Wade said.
Satellite markets are becoming more and more about data. One of the intriguing questions facing companies is whether the “traditional” Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) operator will come under more pressure than ever before, as they look to derive revenues away from broadcast. Wade admits that he does see increased pressure for FSS operators as a result of the challenging market environment and capacity oversupply in some emerging markets. He adds that lower backlogs and downward pressure on transponder prices have been impacting the operations of most FSS operators. In the future, FSS operators will see increased pressure from High Throughput Satellites (HTS) that will bring additional new capacity on line, he said.
In terms of the landscape in Asia, Wade commented, “I still see FSS operators which provide the traditional C-band and Ku-band FSS services have an edge in Asia where telecoms infrastructure is lacking and the development of HTS is slow. C-band satellite services remain an important spectrum for critical communication services across a wide area that can be more economically and securely provided by traditional FSS operators.”
In Asia, Wade believes DTH is still driving satellite market growth. He says certain governments are relaxing regulation and opening markets for competition, but others are tightening restrictions in order to protect local industries. “HDTV is continuing to grow as programmers convert their content from SD. The market will remain very competitive as there are more satellite operators in this market and some anticipated new satellite launches from national platforms. I think around this time next year, we will be evaluating how satellite operators in Asia have managed to get through this challenging time,” he said.
There is little doubt that the satellite industry is on the cusp of change. Wade believes it has changed “more significantly” over the last few years. “Our clients have had to modify their businesses as their customers’ habits have changed. This is particularly evident in the video broadcasting sector. In order to address these changes, satellites have improved their efficiency and taken major steps to lower costs,” he added.