Satellite Broadband To Blanket Russia as Gazprom, RSCC Vie for Consumer Business

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PARIS — Russia’s two principal commercial satellite-fleet operators, both already in Ku-band expansion mode, are making big investments in consumer Ka-band following a now-scrapped government satellite initiative, the two companies said.

Moscow-based Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) and Gazprom Space Systems have both ordered multibeam satellites with overlapping coverage areas. RSCC devoting is beams on Express-AM spacecraft to Russia’s Far East, while Gazprom is concentrating coverage of its Yamal-601 satellite, likely to be contracted later this year, on western and central Russia.

In a Sept. 9 presentation to the World Space Business Week here, organized by Euroconsult, RSCC’s Andrey Kirillovich said his company’s experience leasing capacity on Paris-based Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat high-throughput Ka-band satellite was a convincing demonstration of consumer broadband demand.

Kirillovich, RSCC’s director of integration services and complex projects, said RSCC leased nine Ka-Sat beams — two with full coverage and seven with partial coverage of RSCC’s audience — and secured 3,000 subscribers in just 12 months. “It was quite a successful experiment,” he said.

The Express-AM satellites coming into service in 2014 will provide coverage of a broad swath of Russian territory with about 20 spot beams.

Gazprom Space Systems is committing to satellite consumer broadband with the purchase of the Yamal-601 satellite. The spacecraft, which will replace the Yamal-202 spacecraft at 49 degrees east, will deliver 30 gigabits per second of Ka-band throughput from 40 spot beams, according to Gazprom Space Systems Director-General Dmitry Sevastiyanov.

Yamal-601, which Russian industry officials have said is likely to be built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, will also carry C- and Ku-band capacity to replace Yamal-202.

Sevastiyanov said demand from consumers and small businesses for broadband satellite terminals is expected to increase fivefold from 61,000 last year to about 300,000 in 2017.

This market in 2017 will be 63 percent consumer, 23 percent government and 14 percent business, he said. He said 20 percent of Russian very small aperture terminals (VSATs) today are pointing to Gazprom’s satellites.

RSCC and Gazprom are now in a newly competitive race for market share in Russia. Both have struggled with launch anomalies on Russia’s Proton rocket that have slowed what otherwise is a rapid expansion of their capacity.

RSCC now plans to launch seven satellites in 2014 and an eighth in 2015. Kirillovich said the company’s current fleet of nine spacecraft has 51 percent of the satellite telecommunications market in Russia and the surrounding Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region that is the former Soviet Union.

“We are in the middle of a total renewal of the fleet,” Kirillovich said. “We will be adding more than 500 transponders to our capacity, and we will be filling all 11 of our orbital slots.” Most of it is to replace existing satellites that are nearing retirement, he said. The company’s current fleet is nine spacecraft carrying 410 television channels.

Given the geographic size of the Russian market and state-owned RSCC’s obligation to it, he said, most of the new capacity will be over Russia and CIS. But the future Express-AM8 satellite will include beams over South America.

RSCC is also focusing on the maritime markets at northern latitudes, with the Express-AM22 and Express-A2 satellites capable of providing mobile communications to customers up to 80 degrees north — which is usually considered the extreme limit for satellites located in geostationary orbit over the equator.

Sevastiyanov agreed that competitor RSCC has a slightly higher market share in Russia of total satellite transmissions. He said that of the 367 transponders — measured in 36-megahertz equivalents — covering Russia, 37 percent are from RSCC, 36 percent from Gazprom and 27 percent from non-Russian operators.

The supply of transponders over Russia will increase by 70 percent by the end of 2014, to 626 transponders, assuming the planned RSCC and Gazprom launches occur as scheduled.

For television distribution, he said, Gazprom has a 50 percent share of the Russian market with a 50 percent share compared with RSCC’s 40 percent; non-Russian satellite fleet operators account for the remaining 10 percent.

Gazprom now uses five satellites, including the Astra-1F spacecraft leased from SES of Luxembourg as part of what the two operators say could be a long-term partnership resembling the relations that RSCC has established with Eutelsat.

In 2014, Sevastiyanov said, Yamal-300K, now at 90 degrees east with Yamal-201, will be moved to 183 degrees east. Yamal-401, now set for launch in 2014, will be stationed alongside Yamal-201 at 90 degrees east.