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Regional Operators Reveal Big Satellite Plans

By Mark Holmes | September 8, 2014
      Azerspace 1 Azercosmos

      Azerspace 1. Photo: Azercosmos

      [Paris, France 09-08-2014] Senior executives from space programs across the world discussed the potential for their ambitious projects in key emerging markets during a lively panel at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week (WSBW) in Paris. Some of the main highlights came from the Caucasus region and Latin America.

      Wesley Wong, CTO of Azercosmos, revealed to the audience that the organization was closing in on finalizing details for its second satellite Azerspace 2. Wong said Azercosmos had been working with a number of partners to develop an orbital slot for this new satellite.

      “We think we are quite close to concluding those discussions. We could have that contract done by the end of this year, or early next year,” he said.

      The company has recently launched its first satellite, Azerspace 1 at 46 degrees east and is now starting to offer a full range of services based on this spacecraft.

      Azercosmos is a satellite operator established just over four years ago and fully owned by the government of Azerbaijan. The company provides satellite-based communication services to enterprise and government customers for DTH, voice, video, data and mobility applications.

      Azercosmos also hopes to launch a remote sensing Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite in the future. Like with Azerspace2, the company is involved in key discussions that could conclude over the next few months for this project. Wong admitted there is “a lot of paperwork involved” in such a satellite but hopes the operator can close a tender for it by the end of this year. Wong also said that Azercosmos had made what he called “conservative” take-up forecasts for capacity on Azerspace 1.

      Latin America

      In Latin America, a number of ambitious projects involving satellites are also taking place. Mexico has aggressively invested in satellite capacity thanks to its Mexsat program, which gives it one of the most advanced satellite capabilities of any country in the region. Jose Ignacio Peralta, under secretary for communications at the Secretariat of Communications and Transport of Mexico, told the conference that, with the country now having three of its own satellites, there is now a growing demand for satellite services and infrastructure for commercial, government and social development.

      Peralta spoke positively about the changes in the regulatory framework and said “complex constitutional” reforms, which have advanced rapidly over the last year, “aim to transform the market from a monopoly to a more competitive market.” Peralta admitted that, for any new satellite projects, it is a challenge to justify them from a funding perspective but says Mexico overall has taken great steps in recent times.

      In Argentina, Arsat is leading the way in terms of developing a more advanced satellite capability. Matias Bianchi Villelli, president of Arsat, said that the organization was on track to launch both Arsat 1 and Arsat 2 over the next year or so. The company has ambitious growth plans that could boost its revenues by up to four times over the next few years. It will also double the amount of people working for the company over the next few years. Arsat is also planning on further satellites and Villelli said the company was in the “design” phase for Arsat 3. He also hopes Arsat can collaborate with other countries in Latin America when it comes to developing a better space based capability.

      Another new company on the Latin American satellite landscape is Visiona Tecnologia Espacial, which boasts big Brazilian firms such as Embraer and Telebras as its major shareholders. The comapny plays a key role in managing payloads for Internet and military satellite communications services. Eduardo Bonini, president of Visiona Tecnologia Espacial, admitted there was a “huge demand” for satellite capacity in the country with the Brazilian government wanting to double the capacity available for military satellite communications, as well as provide broadband services via satellite throughout Brazil. Bonini believes such is the demand, that Brazil will need further satellites in the near future, and believes the country will look to continue to develop satellites in-house to supplement commercial satellite capacity available.