With the negative effects of the German government-ordered cutoff of analog television transmissions in April 2012 now fully digested, SES says it is ready for a spurt of growth from new in-orbit capacity.
The potential drag on revenue from slower U.S. government spending on commercial satellite bandwidth will be less of an issue at SES than at competitors Intelsat and Eutelsat insofar as Luxembourg-based SES has not benefited as much as these companies from increased government demand. Excluded from some of the up side, SES will suffer less on the down side.
Four new satellites were scheduled for launch in 2013. The biggest, SES-6, with 49 transponders available for new customers in addition to the capacity it is replacing in orbit, was launched in June.
The importance of this new expansion capacity was clear enough just after the SES-6 launch, when SES announced it had leased a large portion of the satellite’s payload to Oi S.A. of Brazil.
Oi statements after the launch suggest that the company is leasing 28 of the 38 physical transponders of SES-6, or 35 of the 48 transponders on board when measured in 36-megahertz equivalents. That’s enough of a commitment to get Oi’s logo on the International Launch Services Proton rocket that carried SES-6 into orbit.
SES’s Astra 2E was set for launch in late July before the July 2 failure of a Proton rocket carrying a Russian government payload of three navigation satellites. How long Proton will be grounded is unknown.
Also unknown is how long it will be before Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is ready to begin commercial geostationary-orbit launches of its new-version Falcon 9 rocket. After a demonstration flight to lower orbit, Falcon 9’s first commercial customer is SES for the SES-8 satellite, which has 21 transponders for new customers.
The six satellites planned for launch between 2013 and 2015, including the SES-6 in orbit, will add 103 new transponders to the SES portfolio, most of them directed at emerging markets.
This is the growth story SES is telling its investors, coupled with the promise that capital investment will drop sharply to level out at around $600 million per year in the coming years.
And there’s a joker in the SES deck of cards: O3b Networks, which just launched the first four of its 12 Ka-band broadband satellites for cellular backhaul, mobile communications and terrestrial Internet to customers located in a band of around 45 degrees north and south of the equator.
A second set of four O3b satellites is set for launch in the fall, with the final four — until a fresh set is ordered — scheduled for launch in 2014. SES owns 47 percent of O3b and has the right to take control of the company if it so chooses.