Asian satellite operators expressed optimism about the near-term growth of direct-broadcast television as regional economic growth and lower-cost satellite receivers make the service

more affordable, and techniques to minimize signal degradation from heavy rains improve


In presentations prepared for the Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council (APSCC) annual conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept. 18-20, these companies said the growth prospects help explain why new satellite operators were appearing on the scene despite concerns that the market already is overcrowded.

Protostar Ltd. of Bermuda, Asia Broadcast Satellite of Hong Kong and Vietnam Telecom International – three new operators with spacecraft in orbit or expected to be in 2008 – are

entering a market that still suffers from occasional below-cost pricing practices

, according to industry officials.

“It’s a matter of applying a specific strategy that you think can work even in a tough environment,” said a

satellite operator active in Asia. “It’s true we continue to see some less-successful players pricing transponders at $600,000 per year, and it’s true this causes problems for all of us. But I think you will see that

companies that do this cannot afford to launch additional capacity, even if they have some political backing.”

Protostar’s first satellite, Protostar 1, is scheduled for a mid-2008 launch aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket following pre-launch transponder-lease commitments from broadcasters in India, and the company already is talking about a second spacecraft for 2009 – and even three more satellites after that.

Eui K. Koh, president of ProtoStar Asia, based in Singapore, said the second ProtoStar satellite is scheduled to be launched in early 2009. The company publicly has not


a manufacturer or a launch-service provider for ProtoStar 2, and most telecommunications satellites take at least 24 months to build and launch.

It remains unclear how many of ProtoStar’s planned future satellites have cleared frequency and orbital-slot coordination procedures at the International Telecommunication Union of Geneva.

Koh said the price of small Ku-band satellite television dish antennas and receivers has dropped to below $50, permitting satellite service providers to subsidize the equipment –

at times giving it away free in return for long-term

subscriber commitments


Koh said Asia’s TV market is five times as big as the U.S. market, which is supported by 16television broadcast satellites.


analysts have noted that nations with large numbers of islands, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, or with large geographical territories

likeIndia and China, give an advantage to satellite distribution compared to cable.

Malaysia’s Measat Satellite Systems of Kuala Lumpur, whose biggest customer is the highly successful Astro satellite-television broadcaster, is one of the companies most active in expanding in the region.

Measat announced Oct. 10


signed its first South Asian customer for its Measat-3 satellite, located at 91.5 degrees east longitude. The customer, Pacific Century Matrix Ltd. of Hong Kong, will use Measat-3 to distribute two Pakistani television channels.

Measat and the Indian Space Research Organisation – a government body that controls India’s satellite television market and continues to limit non-Indian broadcasters’ entry – have struck an agreement that Measat officials have said should facilitate Measat’s entry into India’s direct-broadcast television market.

Terry Bleakley, Measat vice president for sales and marketing, said the company’s current three-satellite fleet had

10 transponders devoted to satellite television in 2006. By the end of 2007, Measat forecasts that 24 of its satellite transponders will be devoted to satellite television, with more

rapid growth expected 2008-2010, he said.

In India, Bleakley said, the two existing satellite-television broadcasters, Dish TV and Tata Sky, already have about 3.7 million subscribers. Five other broadcasters are planning to enter the market, and Measat estimates that by 2015, India will have 38 million satellite-television subscribers.

Measat also is targeting Indonesia as a near-term growth market, Bleakley said.

Meanwhile, using higher-frequency Ku-band instead of conventional C-band transponders carries the risk of programming outages in areas of heavy rainfall. Even relatively minor interruptions can increase subscriber churn and result in higher insurance costs for broadcasters.

Bleakley said Astro has solved the problem by adding a backup program-uplink station around 25 kilometers away from its main All-Asia Broadcast Centre in Kuala Lumpur. He said the stations are far enough that neither is subject to thunderstorms concurrently

. Programming uplink to Measat spacecraft can be switched between sites in less than a second, he said.