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Arabsat launches BADR-4 successfully

The launch of the BADR-4 satellite will enable direct-to-home television services, together with voice and broadband services, across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe.

The Arab Satellite Communications Organisation (Arabsat) successfully launched its BADR-4 satellite last month. The launch of the satellite, which was built by EADS-Astrium, will enable direct-to-home television services, together with voice and broadband services, across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe.

“Thanks to the combined performance of the Proton launcher and Astrium design and manufacturing, BADR-4 is now the most state-of-the-art satellite to serve the MENA region,” says Khalid Balkheyour, Arabsat’s CEO. “It will provide the 130 million viewers already watching our 26 degrees East video ‘hot spot’ with an unrivalled level of in-orbit reliability and back-up.”

The launch of BADR-4 is a big milestone for the Middle East, as it is the only satellite that has 32 transponders and will enable HDTV broadcasts in the future. “The successful launch of BADR-4 represents the realisation of a critical milestone in Arabsat’s new strategic deployment, as well as the company’s commitment to consolidating its position as the leading operator of direct-to-home services in the Middle East and North Africa region for 30 years.”
The launch of BADR-4 has been awaited with anticipation in the Middle East region as it brings a lot of extra capacity to the region that will be required once HDTV becomes standard. “The Middle East may only be at the verge of discovering HDTV. But we can see how in the Europe and US, the demand for HDTV is increasing, and we anticipate similar demands in the Middle East within the next two years,” says Balkheyour.

As broadcasters like Rotana, MBC and Dubai TV, which have several channels gradually progress from standard TV to HDTV, they will have to carry out dual transmissions for a while before they switch completely to HDTV. This will require a lot of extra bandwidth that was, thus far, not available to the region. “BADR-4 brings so much capacity on the market with its 32 transponders that all of this becomes easy and feasible for expansion,” says Balkheyour.

So far, satellites in the region have typically had 16 to 20 transponders as the demand has not been huge. In such a market, a satellite with 32 transponders is a significant achievement. “This will have a much larger footprint than we have ever had, and cover Morrocco and Algeria as well as the whole of the Arabian Gulf,” says Balkheyour. Arabsat intends to eventually migrate the channels on BADR-2 to BADR-4 and shut the former down. “This is because BADR-2 was originally designed for another region. As a consequence, it has lower power, and does not cover the Maghreb region, Algeria and Morrocco well. BADR-4 will address all those issues,” adds Balkheyour.

Arabsat also intends to launch another satellite in 2008 to compensate for the loss of BADR-4A, which it lost earlier this year.

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