Noorsat’s entry shakes up Middle East satellite market

According to a new agreement with Eutelsat, Noorsat will use the capacity of two Eutelsat satellites that are located in the same neighbourhood as the two regional hotspots of ArabSat and NileSat.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  October 4, 2005

Noorsat, the newest entrant to the Middle East satellite communications sector, has signed an agreement with Eutelsat. According to the agreement, Noorsat will use the capacity of two Eutelsat satellites that are located in the same neighbourhood as the two regional hotspots of ArabSat and NileSat. Noorsat provides transponder capacity from five satellite locations including the two Middle East hotspots at 26 degrees East co-located with ArabSat, and 7 degrees West co-located with NileSat. “We provide customised satellite transmission, internet and communication services to clients through a wide range of broadband frequencies with enough capacity to cater to the requirements of regional television broadcasters and telecom operators,” says Omar Shoter, CEO of Noorsat. “Building the platform around the hot spot locations covering the Arab world and neighbouring countries means that public and private TV broadcasters have immediate access to all existing satellite TV dishes in the region without the need for viewers to re-align dishes or add any equipment.” Noorsat predicts that the number of television channels broadcasting to the Middle East region will double in the next five years. “I expect demand for satellite bandwidth to grow exponentially over the next two to five years with demand being driven by television broadcasters,” says Shoter. “There will also be increased demand from ISPs (Internet Service Providers), telecom operators and data companies, although non-video growth will only account for around 20% of satellite bandwidth capacity.” Shoter claims that Noorsat’s market entry will re-energise the regional television marketplace by providing much needed satellite capacity at discount rates. Currently, there are almost 300 channels broadcasting over the Middle East. “Normally, channels make a satellite decision based on price and quality of service. If the quality of service is as good, or better, than that currently available and the price is more competitive, and the viewer doesn’t have to turn his satellite dish, then that is a compelling proposition for broadcasters.” Shoter believes many potential broadcasters are currently finding it difficult to get on-air because of the high cost of satellite transmission. “In terms of capacity, we can broadcast hundreds of channels, and we are aiming at taking 30% of the market, drawn between existing channels and new entrants to the market,” he says. A key part of the Noorsat strategy is to create an Arabic hotspot for Europe by leasing capacity on the Eutelsat AB2 craft at 8 degrees West. The company believes that AB2, a powerful satellite that allows the reception of transmitted TV programmes in all of Europe using very small dishes, will become the satellite position of choice to provide indigenous content to the Arab and ethnic communities in Europe. The company has also established two state-of-the art uplink facilities in Bahrain and Greece to ensure service integrity and quality. More uplink facilities will be established in other Arab countries to meet customer demand. Headquartered in Bahrain, Noorsat is the first totally privately owned Arab satellite communications company. The company does plan to offer satellite television, telecommunication and ISP customers a shareholding opportunity in the form of private equity and a role in the management of the company’s affairs in anticipation of its plan to go for a public IPO within the coming two years.

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