PARIS — Satellite fleet operatoron May 15 said Brazilian consumer broadband provider Via Sat Brasil had leased the Ka-band broadband capacity on the Eutelsat 3B satellite scheduled for launch May 26.
The sale of the capacity — five steerable spot beams to cover all of Brazil’s territory — came a month after Eutelsat sold all the Brazilian Ka-band capacity on another satellite, Eutelsat 65 West A, to EchoStar Corp.’s Hughes division. The beams’ flexibility means they could be deployed anywhere in a broad swath from Latin America to Africa.
Eutelsat declined to disclose the duration of the Via Sat Brasil lease other than saying it was for several years but less than the full 15-year life of the satellite.
After a monthlong delay due to a rocket component issue, Eutelsat 3B is set for launch May 26 aboard a Sea Launch vehicle operated from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean.
Reporting its financial results for the three months ending March 31, Paris-based Eutelsat said its own consumer broadband service, called Tooway, had grown its subscriber base by 13 percent, to 124,000, compared with where it was Dec. 31. Tooway relies on Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat satellite stationed over Europe.
The three-month period ending March 31 was Eutelsat’s first quarter following its purchase of Mexican satellite fleet operator Satmex, whose name has been changed to Eutelsat Americas.
The former Satmex reported revenue of $34.7 million for the three months, and grew its backlog by nearly 10 percent, to $460 million, compared with where it stood at the end of December.
In addition to its Satmex acquisition and its development of the 65 degrees west slot, Eutelsat recently won a Brazilian satellite-slot auction, paying 9.1 million euros ($12.5 million) for C- and Ku-band rights at 69.45 degrees west.
Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen declined to disclose what the company plans to do with the slot, but he said Eutelsat continues to believe in the strong growth potential of Latin America in general, and especially Brazil, despite the volume of new satellite capacity moving over the region.
Eutelsat’s “Multi-Usage” business, which is mainly sales of satellite bandwidth to companies representing the U.S. government, has suffered from the recent decline in U.S. Defense Department demand for commercial capacity as the U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq winds down.
Eutelsat’s strength in the Middle East and Africa, with multiple satellites covering the region, had made the company a favored supplier to the U.S. Defense Department.
Eutelsat Deputy Chief Executive Michel Azibert said during the call that the most recent round of satellite capacity lease renewals for the U.S. government showed continued softness of demand. He said that in the latest round, companies representing the U.S. government sought 2,000 megahertz of bandwidth, compared with 1,000 megahertz in the previous round in September.
Per-megahertz prices showed no sign of firming, he said, but several customers were willing to book leases longer than the usual one-year period common to U.S. government satellite bandwidth purchases. For the three-month period, Eutelsat reported 40.2 million euros in multiusage business, or 12 percent of the company’s total revenue. The figure includes 4 million euros in multiusage business contributed by Satmex/Eutelsat Americas.
Azibert said Eutelsat remains the biggest supplier of satellite bandwidth in the Middle East, with Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat in second place. Arabsat has a four-satellite procurement underway, but Azibert said Eutelsat’s growing television audience at 7 degrees and 8 degrees west makes it unlikely that the Arabsat expansion will have much effect.
The Middle East has become one of the world’s most satellite-intensive regions for television viewing, with 92 percent of homes now equipped with antennas pointed to Eutelsat, Arabsat and other satellite operators’ orbital television neighborhoods.
Further expanding its role in the region, Eutelsat earlier this month moved its Eutelsat 33A satellite to 31 degrees east and renamed Eutelsat 31A as part of a joint operating agreement with Turksat of Turkey.
Another satellite, now named Eutelsat 48D, was moved to 48 degrees east to debut a national satellite service for Afghanistan. Afghan officials have said they expect to pay around $4 million per year for the satellite and to save three or four times that amount by reducing their reliance on foreign satellite suppliers.