AsiaSat planning small HTS satellite to cover China

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PARIS — Hong Kong-based fleet operator AsiaSat will soon order a “modest”-size high-throughput satellite  (HTS) that will leverage the company’s access to the Chinese market, Barrie Woolston, AsiaSat’s chief commercial officer, said Sept. 14.

“We’ve looked long and hard at what we can use existing capacity for, and when we will make the leap into HTS,” Woolston said here at the World Satellite Business Week conference. “We are at that stage now where we are specifying a new satellite … that will hit the streets in 36 months time.”

Woolston said AsiaSat is in discussions with manufacturers about the new satellite, called AsiaSat-10, which will be in orbit by 2020. China will be a primary focus for the satellite.

“China as you know is an enormous market,” he said. “Our HTS strategy is around what we can do for the market in China.”

Woolston said China’s market access conditions create “a whole set of complexities” despite AsiaSat’s preexisting access. Inflight connectivity is and continues to be a driver of demand in China, he said.

AsiaSat wants AsiaSat-10 to be significantly more “flexible” in its ability to augment where capacity is directed based on changes in demand. “Long gone,” he said, are the days where fixed beams would be sufficient.

While AsiaSat-9 is a replacement for AsiaSat-4, Woolston said AsiaSat-10 will be a growth satellite. AsiaSat-10 could also pave the way for future HTS, he said.

“The ideas is we want to build a relatively modest-sized HTS satellite,” he said.”Once we’ve established and understand it, we hope to invest in a larger one.”

Woolston, having explained AsiaSat’s plans for geostationary HTS, said low-Earth orbit telecom satellites do bring “a new impetus to the market” for manufacturers and launch providers, but he doesn’t believe the constellations will ultimately be successful.

“There will be a lot of money made in the LEO market in the short term, certainly, but it won’t be the operators. There will be a lot of investment that goes in and they’ll struggle to make revenue. We are a naysayer in the LEO market,” he said.

Woolston said AsiaSat is competing against other satellite operators with HTS capacity now and is challenged by the bandwidth prices being offered. AsiaSat has small Ka-band payloads on AsiaSat-7, and the upcoming AsiaSat-9 satellite that launches Sept. 28 on an International Launch Services Proton rocket.