China wins breakthrough contract for Thaicom telecommunications satellite
PARIS— China Great Wall Industry Corp.’s win of a contract for a high-throughput Ka-band broadband satellite for Thailand’s Thaicom is a breakthrough deal for China’s satellite export industry, which up to now has relied on domestic demand and special-circumstances orders, mainly from emerging-market governments.
The contract, from Thaicom subsidiary International Satellite Co. Ltd., is valued at $208 million covering the satellite’s construction and launch, continuing a China Great Wall Industry Corp. (CGWIC) practice of bundling satellite construction and launch contracts.
Scheduled for launch in late 2019, the satellite will carry a Ka-band payload with 37 GHz of capacity, which Thaicom said is equivalent to a throughput of 53 gigabits per second. It will cover a large swath of East and South East Asia, including South Korea and Japan.
Beijing-based CGWIC announced the contract Oct. 27. Thaicom, which is traded on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, filed notice of the transaction to stock market authorities on Oc. 21, saying the contract signature was Oct. 20.
International Satellite Co. said it would lease the satellite’s full capacity to “a major customer” for the full 15 years of expected service life, and that this customer would be responsible for making milestone payments to CGWIC under the contract.
The customer was not identified, and it was unclear whether the company was referring to a transaction with Thaicom or with some other entity.
Thaicom has been negotiating for months on a successor to its Thaicom 4/IPStar satellite, a pioneer in delivery of internet to consumers in Asia, but in Ku-band.
Thaicom has run into multiple issues with the Thai government over rights to spectrum and orbital slots, and industry officials had said these issues had slowed the order for what Thaicom had referred to as Thaicom 9.
CGWIC officials in recent months have said they are moving forward on a three-part goal for their satellite industry, which already benefits from a domestic Chinese demand that keeps its factories active despite a U.S. government ban on the export of U.S. satellites or satellite parts to China. With U.S. components embedded in so many of the world’s commercial telecommunications satellite, the U.S. policy has made it impossible for China to win much commercial business.
CGWIC’s success on the commercial market has mainly come from negotiating barter- and export-credit-backed deals with nations that are new to the satellite business.
APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong has ordered Chinese satellites and launches, and while APT is an established player on the commercial market, its Chinese share ownership made it a logical next step for China’s satellite industry.
Thaicom moves CGWIC to the next level, which CGWIC Vice President Ziheng Fu had explained at the recent APSCC 2016 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Fu said China’s multiple successes in providing emerging-market countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia with their first satellites demonstrated the manufacturing quality of the Chinese products, which would now strike out to establish a foothold among the established satellite fleet operators.