IPStar Buoys Thaicom

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Thaicom of Thailand reported a decline in revenue from its conventional satellite transponder lease business for the three months ending June 30 compared to the previous three-month period but said revenue from its IPStar satellite broadband service increased.

In an Aug. 17 presentation to investors, Thaicom said its biggest IPStar market, Australia, continues to add 2,500 to 3,000 subscribers a month, profiting from the Australian government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee financial incentives.

As of June 30, IPStar had 84,000 Australian subscribers. Total IPStar subscribers, measured by the number of IPStar terminals that have been sold, was nearly 184,000, the company said. Australia and New Zealand together account for 53 percent of the total, followed by Thailand, which is home to 39 percent of the current IPStar subscribers.

Thaicom operates three satellites following the transfer in May of Thaicom 1A customers to the company’s Thaicom 2 and Thaicom 5 spacecraft. The third satellite is Thaicom 4/IPStar, whose broadband service is in Ku-band, not the Ka-band frequency used by U.S. commercial satellite broadband providers WildBlue and Hughes Network Systems.

Satellite service revenue for the three months ending June 30 totaled 846 million Thai baht ($25.23 million), down 1.4 percent from the three months ending March 31. The decrease came from the conventional satellite lease business, which declined 4 percent despite a slight increase in the number of television channels being carried on the Thaicom satellites. Backlog for conventional transponder leases stood at $224.1 million at June 30, Thaicom said.

The IPStar service revenue, when accounted for separately, increased by nearly 4.1 percent in the same period.

Thaicom sells IPStar user terminals in addition to providing the service. Terminal sales revenue for the three months ending June 30 was 229 million baht, up 2.6 percent from the previous three-month period.

While Australia, New Zealand and Thailand today represent 92 percent of IPStar’s installed user base, Thaicom continues working the often laborious regulatory issues needed to introduce the service elsewhere in Asia within IPStar’s coverage.

As of June 30, 15 IPStar gateway Earth stations were installed in 12 nations. Two more gateways are scheduled to be activated in India this year following Indian regulatory approval, and an 18th gateway is set to begin service in Thailand, also by the end of this year.

Thaicom said it has already sold 6,000 IPStar terminals in India. For the Chinese service, Thaicom was mandated by the Chinese government to transfer IPStar responsibility to China Satcom.

“Thaicom is working with China Telecom to formulate a new business cooperation model and [is] assessing the current market potential in order to … form a more effective partnership,” Thaicom said.

IPStar service in Japan started in April, and Thaicom is offering free trials in the 46 Japanese prefectures covered by the IPStar satellite. Service in Indonesia began in May.

Thaicom expects IPStar business in these new markets will, like Australia, be helped by government financial incentives encouraging broadband deployment in rural areas. Programs to offer broadband in rural schools are also viewed as key future market drivers.

Up to now, 62 percent of IPStar customers are individual households or small businesses, according to Thaicom figures. Some 24 percent of users are at schools, and 9 percent are corporate users. Governments represent 3 percent of current users, and mobile telecommunications operators accounting for the remaining 2 percent.