SingTel Satellite Exec Outlines Ambitious Growth Forecasts
Lim Kian Soon is SingTel’s head of satellite and responsible for leading SingTel’s satellite business through a new growth period. With a strong position in Asia, as well as the backing of the region’s biggest telcos, the operator looks in great shape. Lim talks about the SingTel’s capital expenditure plans, and what is next for the company in the satellite arena.
VIA SATELLITE: How has business been revenue-wise this year compared to last year? Where do you see the growth opportunities for SingTel Satellite this year?
Lim: Last year, we had a very good year. I took over in January 2013. We did a small re-organization and we are now more customer-fronting and product-based. We now have a team dedicated to broadcast, another dedicated to maritime and offshore services, and a third one focused on capacity and teleport services. With this reorganization, we managed to see growth in all three sectors.
Moving forward, we expect to see these three businesses continue to grow. We will look to leverage more in the maritime business where we will see more adoption of broadband services. We are working with Inmarsat, as well as using our own C- and Ku-band capacity. We differentiate with our ICT services. We adopt a different approach so we can help ship owners have great services at sea, as well as all the way to the shore and their offices — it is a complete service.
We are part of a big telecoms group, we do have quite strong infrastructure and submarine cable systems as well as data centers. As the head of the satellite business, we leverage all of that to provide end-to-end solutions.
VIA SATELLITE: Could you tell us about your capital expenditure plans to invest in new satellites? What kinds of satellites are you looking at?
Lim: We have just launched our ST 3 satellite in February in a Condosat arrangement with Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS). The ST 3 has very high powered C-band coverage over Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. We are able to capitalize in the growth in demand in transponders for maritime VSATs, as well as broadcast requirements in Africa.
There are also the mobile backhaul requirements in Africa. With C-band, it is very effective in dealing against rainfade. We believe there is a strong play for C-band capacity for mobile backhaul customers in Africa and Southeast Asia.
In terms of future plans, we will continue to look at what customers look at. We do see there is growing demand in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Our next project will likely be focused on augmenting capacity in those regions of the world.
VIA SATELLITE: From what we understand, Optus was up for sale last year. Is the company still actively looking to sell the business?
Lim: We had a strategic review in regards to the Optus business in March/April of last year. We wanted to see what we could do in terms of our satellite business in Australia. We made a statement that we will continue to grow and invest in that business.
VIA SATELLITE: What do you see as the potential for High Throughput Satellites (HTS) in Asia? Do you think they can make an impact?
Lim: It really depends on the usage. If there is a way to overcome the rainfade, HTS can still be a very attractive solution. This technology allows higher throughput and bandwidth. If you look at the Inmarsat Global Xpress solution, this is a really robust solution. They have diversity on both the gateway and the remote. They can also use L-band as back-up and, on land, they have gateways which they can use as back-up. If you get the right formula and set-up, I think there is still a very good opportunity for us in terms of HTS. We are looking at the potential of that. We don’t have dedicated plans for that right now but it is something that we will continue to assess. We are a reseller for Global Xpress, so we will continue to put resources into those services.
VIA SATELLITE: What role can satellite play in the data world in Asia, or is it still more of a broadcast/Direct-to-Home (DTH) play?
Lim: We all know that broadcast and DTH is taking a lot of capacity in Asia. At the same time, we see in places like Indonesia and the Philippines many remote areas where fiber can’t reach. It would be very expensive to bring fiber or copper cable to these areas. So, for example, we are looking at things like remote banking services. Last year, we were very successful in Indonesia. We signed a contract that covered more than 3,000 remote sites to link ATM machines in other areas to the central location.
The other area that satellite can play an important role is helping provide mobile communications in rural areas, whether Indonesia or Myanmar. It is still a very cost-effective way to provide communications to rural areas for many countries.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you view the aeronautical and maritime markets for SingTel Satellite?
Lim: Maritime is a big business for us. We have many teams focused on delivering end-to-end IT services for maritime especially in the offshore, energy and oil and gas market. Aeronautical is a new area for us; we have just started doing some work in this market, but more in a wholesale manner, not in retail. We will continue to watch this, and see if there is an opportunity for us.
VIA SATELLITE: Do you believe the regulatory situation in regards to satellite services in Asia has improved? What are the key challenges here?
Lim: The regulation in each country is different and it continues to change. We see there have been certain regulatory changes. For example, some countries have implemented new rules to have surveillance cameras on board vessels. So, we can take advantage of this type of regulation. We have enabled mobile surveillance images to be delivered over satellite links from the vessel all the way to the shore. So, changes in security regulation are definitely opening up some opportunities for us. VIA SATELLITE: Finally, what are your aspirations for the company over the next two years?
Lim: My boss has given me a target of doubling SingTel Satellite’s revenues over the next three years; that is what we are shooting for. We will do that by focusing on the customer, and delivering great services to the maritime and broadcast customers, for example.
On the media and broadcast side, this is another area where we think we can grow. With our teleport, we can provide the uplink/downlink. Our revamped Playout service allows us to support HD content and redundancy. It helps broadcasters and content providers keep up with evolving viewer demand. With Playout, broadcasters and media companies can stitch various content packages together and also insert advertisements. This new service helps customers better manage their content and scheduling. We have cloud services. We are able to meet the very stringent data demands of our media and broadcast customers. We also see an opportunity in government services as well. In Singapore, we have a very strong branding, and we can look at how we can replicate our success with the government into some more opportunities with them. VS