Arabsat Rides Tide of Hot Middle East Market

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The successful June 26 launch of the Arabsat 5A telecommunications satellite continues a major fleet expansion plan for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat. Three more satellites are scheduled for launch by 2012.

With four operational satellites — not counting Arabsat 5A — at three orbital slots, Arabsat increased its 2009 revenue, when measured in U.S. dollars, by nearly 20 percent over 2008. The growth means Arabsat is growing even faster than its home Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region, which is already one of the most robust satellite markets in the world and forecast to remain so for at least several years.

By Arabsat’s count, the 21-nation organization grew its market share to 19.1 percent of the MENA region in 2009, up from 18 percent in 2008. Arabsat currently vies with Eutelsat of Paris for second place among MENA satellite providers, both well behind Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat but ahead of Egypt’s Nilesat, with a market share of about 12 percent.

Arabsat estimates that the MENA fixed satellite services market overall grew by 13 percent in 2009, to some $990 million.

MENA demand for Ku-band capacity is expected to rise by as much as 6 percent per year through 2014, while C-band demand in the region is expected to erode. Demand for Ka-band, which today is modest, is expected to grow by 65 percent annually, according to Arabsat.

Arabsat’s multiband Badr-5 satellite, scheduled for launch in 2012, includes Ka-band capacity to be added to the company’s core 26 degrees east location. Newcomer Yahsat of the United Arab Emirates is also entering the Mideast market with a large amount of Ka-band capacity in 2011.

Sub-Saharan Africa, another of the world’s most-promising markets for satellite services, is also a near-term focus for Arabsat, as it is for several other satellite fleet operators looking for pockets of growth. The just-launched Arabsat-5A will operate at the organization’s 30.5 degrees east slot. It includes a C-band beam for southern Africa.