Orbit to launch broadband service

Orbit Data Systems (ODS), an affiliate of satellite TV provider, Orbit Communications, is set to launch a broadband direct-to-home service to the broadcaster’s residential subscribers and small office, home office (SoHo) users in the Middle East.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  February 15, 2004

Orbit Data Systems (ODS), an affiliate of satellite TV provider, Orbit Communications, is set to launch a broadband direct-to-home service to the broadcaster’s residential subscribers and small office, home office (SoHo) users in the Middle East. Following a multi-year agreement struck in 2003, the provider will market US-based satellite operator, Intelsat’s broadband service in the region to provide subscribers with web browsing, e-mail, file transfer, audio and video streaming, and distance learning at high speeds. Intelsat has installed the required gateway in Perth, Australia, and has been operating a beta service in preparation for the service’s launch in March. The operator will provide network connectivity for the service while ODS will be responsible for sales, marketing and retail distribution, as well as customer and call centre support. Orbit Communications is planning to bundle the service for its existing pay-TV subscribers, as well as targeting small business users. “We are aiming at two market segments — home and corporate users,” says Dr. Mohammed Omar, general manager of ODS. “The service is principally for Orbit TV subscribers, although we will also accommodate non-subscribers,” he adds. In a deal valued in excess of US$30 million, ViaSat, Intelsat’s equipment supplier, will distribute end-user terminals, support and a high capacity gateway to ODS. Its solution includes modified hardware and software to enable satellite broadband access over the Data over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), formerly reserved for cable modems. The system provides data speeds of up to 512Kbits/s upstream. ODS will begin to sell the service from March, starting with countries within its footprint that are likely to provide the highest returns and where regulations allow. Its coverage area currently includes the Gulf States, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and some parts of Libya and Sudan. “The [roll-out] will be staged, based on demand and regulations,” says Omar. “The regulations are still not fully clear — certain countries are completely open while in others it is not authorised. In [those] countries, we are using resellers who are licensed,” he adds. The move follows Intelsat’s opening of a field office in Dubai last year to help it strengthen its presence in North Africa and the Middle East. Orbit, which launched its original internet service for TV subscribers in 2002, says it will also eventually offer its TV and broadband services within one set-top box.

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