KOUROU, French Guiana — The Indian Space Research Organis ation (ISRO), which has long run a commercial telecommunications business alongside its government-financed space development organization , has agreed to carry an S-band mobile-video payload on an Insat satellite now under construction. The new service will be managed by an Indian start-up company backed by U.S. venture capital, according to ISRO officials.
The Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. will use the S-band payload scheduled for launch in 2008 aboard the Gsat-6 satellite to provide video to users of hand-held devices, a business similar to projects either operating or in development in South Korea, Japan, China and Europe.
K.N. Shankara, director of the ISRO Satellite Center, disclosed the project here at Europe’s Guiana Space Center March 10, a day before India’s Insat 4B telecommunications satellite was successfully launched aboard an Ariane 5 ECA rocket.
Insat 4B, carrying 12 Ku-band and 12 C-band transponders, will serve a fast-growing Indian direct-broadcast television market. Demand for Insat 4B capacity is especially strong because of the failure of the all-Ku-band Insat 4C satellite in a July 2006 failure of India’s domestic GSLV rocket.
Manufactured by ISRO, the 3,034-kilogram Insat 4B is expected to operate from India’s orbital slot at 93.5 degrees east longitude for up to 15 years following what agency officials said was a pinpoint launch that will permit them to use a minimum amount of on board fuel to maneuver the satellite into final operating position.
The price inflation that is affecting many sectors of India’s economy has not spared the aerospace industry, but India’s labor costs are still low enough that manufacturing the satellite cost less than launching it aboard the Ariane 5 ECA rocket. In Europe, North America and Japan, a commercial telecommunications satellite is in most cases substantially more expensive to build than it is to launch, even in the current environment of rising launch prices.
ISRO officials said Insat 4B cost about 2.1 billion Indian rupees ($47.5 million) to build. The launch as a one of two payloads aboard the Ariane 5 ECA cost about $52 million, they said. An insurance package covering the launch and the first year in orbit cost an estimated $14 million, according to ISRO.
A. Bhaskaranarayana, ISRO’s satellite program director, said in a March 11 interview that Insat 4B, in part because of pent-up demand following the Insat 4C failure, is already sold out in Ku-band and is 60 percent sold out in C-band. “We have almost no doubt that the C-band will also be fully committed within six months,” Bhaskaranarayana said.
ISRO sells its capacity on the domestic Indian market for about $1 million per transponder per year.
ISRO still plans to return the GSLV to flight in August or September, and to launch the Insat 4CR — a remake of the Insat 4C — to keep up with the demand by Indian satellite-television companies. Three companies have been licensed to provide direct-broadcast television service in India, and three others are expected to receive licenses in the coming months, Bhaskaranarayana said.
India is currently one of the principal fronts in a global battle pitting satellite users, some television broadcasters and others making use of a portion of the C-band spectrum against backers of new wireless-broadband transmissions, including WiFi.
The Indian Ministry of Communications has ordered satellite systems in what is known as the lower extended C-band, at 3.4-3.7 gigahertz, to vacate the spectrum or face interference from broadband wireless users.
Technical analyses in Hong Kong and elsewhere have concluded that satellite receive-only antennas operating anywhere in C-band will be unable to function if broadband wireless services are allowed to operate in adjacent C-band spectrum.
Bhaskaranarayana said the Ministry of Communications has agreed to suspend its order, which was to take effect in March, pending a series of tests to begin the week of March 19.
“There are questions remaining about whether, if you give lower extended C-band to them [broadband wireless operators], satellite signals in adjacent bands will face interference,” Bhaskaranarayana said. “The answer may depend on the specific WiMax characteristics. There is a possibility that, if there is a sufficient gap between the bands used, then operations could occur without interference. But this is what our tests will determine and the Ministry of Communications has agreed to set its policy as a function of what the technical analyses conclude.”