Blue skies ahead

Satellite communication provider SES New Skies looks forward to healthy growth from the Middle East region's businesses, telecom providers and broadcast industry.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  April 13, 2008

Satellite communication provider SES New Skies looks forward to healthy growth from the Middle East region's businesses, telecom providers and broadcast industry.

SES New Skies, a global satellite communication services provider, is enthusiastic about its continuing growth in the Middle East in the next few years. The firm, which has a global fleet of satellites numbering 38, has seen a 20% growth in business from the Middle East in 2007.

We do see growth in the broadcast industry. SES New Skies has set for itself the agenda of becoming more of a player in the broadcast arena as well.

"The Middle East region has contributed $18 million in revenue. That is just from customers based in the region. We make similar revenues from customers who are based elsewhere in the world but are coming to the Middle East.

This also completely excludes any government activity that we support. Over the past two years we have seen 15% to 20% growth across our business and if we had the capacity to be able to handle it we could see that continue in the telecoms sector.

Right now we are constrained by our capacity which is why we are launching new satellites next year," says Rob Bednarek, president and CEO of SES New Skies.

The company, whose key spokespeople were in the region for the Cabsat event, is planning on launching three new satellites in the near future - NSS-9 this year, NSS-12 in 2009 and NSS-14 in 2010.

Some of these new satellites will replace incumbent machines in their orbital positions and will add more than 200 transponders to the fleet.

The company provides a range of satellite services to regional customers including GSM backhauling, supporting VSAT networks for expanding oil and gas and banking industries, and serving the needs of ISPs and telecom companies for VoIP services.

The firm's satellites are also home to the Arab Satellite Broadcast Union and enables two-way broadband enterprise services in Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

"Most common in the region is the use of satellites to build data networks to connect businesses across some industries. We do quite a bit of work now in GSM backhaul which is the connection of remote GSM sites to central sites. Telecoms and business sectors contribute nearly 80% to 90% of the business in the Middle East and we see these sectors continue to grow," says Bednarek.

According to Bednarek, the firm sees increasing interest in and growth of HDTV services in the region and is set to tap into it when it happens.

"We do see growth in the broadcast industry. New Skies has set for itself the agenda of becoming more of a player in the broadcast arena as well. We think it is growing strongly for a number of reasons - first and foremost, more channels are being created. With that HDTV, which is beginning to emerge around the world, will occur here as well. We also think regional direct-to-home broadcasting is a strong growth driver. How and where it occurs is subject to regional regulations. We understand that but overtime you will see HDTV adoption grow and you will see either language specific, regional broadcasts or other types of fairly niche content being broadcast over satellites," states Bednarek.

SES New Skies is also interested in growing its customer base and revenues in the region as a measure of geographic risk. Though the company makes a significant part of its revenues from the US government alone, Bednarek does not seem too worried about the imminent change in administration.

"A change in administration is not going to fundamentally change the reliance on commercial satellites. The US military satellites have been delayed over time, have been oversubscribed in terms of demand, so much of the expansion of demand has gone to the commercial satellite industry. And that is unlikely to be a trend that can be reversed. Simply put, it is a very large customer relying upon a commercial operator because its own network is not able to handle some of the things needed," concludes Bednarek.

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