NewSat’s 1st Satellite 60-percent Booked Thanks to Discounts

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PARIS — Startup commercial satellite operator NewSat Ltd. of Australia says it has been offering capacity on its first satellite, Jabiru-1, at a 30 percent discount to prevailing market rates and has sold more than 60 percent of the satellite’s capacity for its first year of operations some two years before launch.

Southbank, Victoria-based NewSat says it has sold 46 percent of Jabiru-1 capacity covering the first three years of operations, and 18 percent of its capacity when measured over its full 15-year service life.

Jabiru-1, carrying mainly a Ka-band and Ku-band payload, is under construction by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., and is scheduled for launch in late 2015 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

Jabiru-1 will be using an orbital slot provided to NewSat by satellite fleet operator Measat of Malaysia, which has entered into a cross-purchasing agreement with NewSat involving Jabiru-1 and Measat’s Measat 3b satellite.

In a May 24 presentation to investors at the ASX Spotlight Conference, NewSat placed the value of its Jabiru-1 deal with Measat, which is using the satellite’s Ku-band payload, at $197 million. NewSat has agreed to purchase an equivalent amount of capacity on Measat 3b.

Measat is NewSat’s biggest advance customer, but NewSat says it has signed a total of $618 million in binding orders for Jabiru-1 — an unusually large backlog for a company that is launching its first satellite and still has nearly two years before its entry into service.

NewSat said in its presentation that it has withheld from advance sales capacity on Jabiru-1’s steerable beams, which will use 8 percent of the satellite’s total bandwidth and whose value is expected to be higher, on a per-megahertz basis, than the 24 Ka-band spot beams and three Ka-band regional beams.

Jabiru-1 is being built to provide 7.4 gigahertz of Ka-band and 648 megahertz of Ku-band.

NewSat is targeting government and business customers and is steering clear of the consumer broadband market. The company’s business model for Jabiru-1 — and for subsequent satellites that NewSat is already planning — is counting on a steady rise in the value of Ka-band capacity in Asia and Africa.

NewSat has given investors a series of possible Ka-band transponder prices and satellite fill rates in the future and translated them into corresponding revenue projections for Jabiru-1.

The midpoint projection has a Ka-band transponder selling for $1.3 million per year. If Jabiru-1 maintains a 70 percent fill rate, this would generate $209 million in annual revenue, NewSat says.

Ka-band pricing remains as much of an art as a science in most parts of the world, and this is true in the broad swath of Asia and Africa that lie under Jabiru-1’s footprint. Transponder-equivalent pricing scenarios evolve with the changing landscape of current and future Ka-band satellite operators.

In its investor presentation, NewSat pointed to one forecast showing a 42 percent compound annual growth rate in demand for Ka-band globally between 2011 and 2020.

Avanti of Britain, Arabsat of Saudi Arabia, Yahsat of the United Arab Emirates, O3b Networks of Britain’s Channel Islands and Es’hailSat of Qatar, among others, all have begun marketing Ka-band capacity in various regions covered by Jabiru-1. Some focus on the consumer market, others on military, government or corporate networks.

NewSat has received $291 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Export-Import Bank in support of the Lockheed Martin manufacturing contract, and $108 million from the French export-credit agency, Coface, to back the Ariane 5 launch. Repayment begins once the satellite is in orbit and declared ready for service.

Including nonsatellite-related capital expenses and other operating costs, NewSat says its Jabiru-1 project is costing about $608 million. The figures include $384 million for the satellite’s construction and launch, and a $36 million insurance premium.

Thanks to the two export-credit agencies, plus the company’s modest current cash flow from its existing teleport business in Australia and an equity raise, the project is fully financed, NewSat says.