Eutelsat Lands Big Contract in Africa

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on Jan. 22 announced that it had signed one of the biggest single contracts in its history, booking satellite-television broadcaster MultiChoice Africa, which already was a large Eutelsat customer, to a 15-year commitment to lease 20 transponders on the new W7 satellite.

Mauritius-based MultiChoice will be moving its existing programming on Eutelsat’sSesat and W4 satellites to W7. The broadcaster already leases 14 transponders on these satellites, which like W7 are located at 36 degrees east. It will be adding six transponders and extending its contract to continue through the entire planned in-orbit life of W7, which recently entered service.

Eutelsat said MultiChoice, by consolidating aboard a single satellite its Ku-band pay-TV broadcasts to customers outside South Africa, will improve its signal strength except in Madagascar, where reception will be poorer — and extend its service to Ethiopia, which up to now has received MultiChoice programming only in C-band. MultiChoice also leases capacity on Intelsat’s IS-7 satellite at 68.5 degrees east longitude for broadcasts in southern Africa.

MultiChoice told its customers in Madagascar that the switch to W7 will negatively affect their service. In the northern part of the country, customers will be obliged to replace their existing dish antennas with antennas measuring 1.8-2.4 meters in diameter.

In southern Madagascar, service will no longer be available and customers will be reimbursed the unused portion of their subscriptions.

MultiChoice officials could not be reached for comment Jan. 22 and it was not immediately clear why signal strength to Madagascar from W7 would not be as strong as from the W4 given that both satellites are at the same orbital position.

In addition to television broadcasts, MultiChoice will use its Eutelsat W7 capacity to deliver educational content to more than 700 schools in Africa.

In a statement, MultiChoice Africa President Collins Khumalo said the contract will permit the company “to deliver a better [television] signal, a greater selection of channels and allow us to introduce … high-definition services.” MultiChoice operates in more than 40 nations in Africa.

Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen said in a statement the Paris-based satellite operator had the fast-growing MultiChoice in mind when it began building W7, one of the largest satellites in Eutelsat’s fleet.

Launched in November 2009, W7 is a ThalesAlenia Space Spacebus 4000 C4 model spacecraft with a capacity of up to 70 Ku-band transponders.