Asia’s satellite telecommunications business continues to recover despite the persistence of idle in-orbit capacity, especially in Ku-band, according to Eui K. Koh, outgoing president of the Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council (APSCC).
Koh said a new generation of satellites in both C- and Ku-band that are expected to be launched in the next three years may mean the overcapacity problem will not go away despite the rapid growth of satellite-television channels and the eventual arrival of high-definition television.
“On balance, the market now is better than it has been for a few years, and in some places C-band may be in short supply in a couple of years,” Koh said Sept. 28. “The mood in the region is fairly upbeat, even among some of the satellite operators. For satellite capacity consumers, of course, things are good.”
More than any other region, Asia features a proliferation of national satellite operators with small fleets and even smaller profit margins. Government backing has meant that the business case has often taken a backseat to the national prestige that Koh says still is attached to satellite ownership.
While some investors in Europe and the United States have speculated that Asian satellite operators might be for sale in a consolidating industry, Koh said there are few signs of this happening anytime soon.
“You have continued monopoly licenses here, and while the market fragmentation may seem inefficient, the fact is that the acceleration of DTH [direct-to-home satellite television] players, there is a continued incentive to have programming stay on national carriers,” Koh said.
In recent months, Kazakhstan has launched its own telecommunications satellite KazSat, and says it is planning a second spacecraft. Vietnam, after hesitating for years, recently contracted with Lockheed Martin for the Vinasat-1 satellite.
Andit is not only national carriers that continue to enter Asia. ProtoStar Ltd. of Bermuda, using what industry officials say is a Singapore-licensed orbital slot, plans to refurbish a Loral-built C- and Ku-band satellite, called ChinaSat-8, for launch over Asia to serve Indian and East Asian customers. ProtoStar officials have declined to disclose their strategy.
The recently created firm Asia Broadcast Satellite of Hong Kong, financed like ProtoStar with private capital, has purchased the little-used LMI-1 satellite with C- and Ku-band transponders from Lockheed Martin and announced plans to be more aggressive in the region.
Koh said the difference in the atmosphere in the Asian satellite telecommunications business is striking when compared to 2003, when he became APSCC president. Koh, who has a consulting company based in Singapore, will end his second two-year term at the end of the year. Nongluck Phinainitisart, president of Shin Satellite of Thailand, on Sept. 27 was elected to succeed him.