Noorsat Buys Additional Eutelsat Capacity for TV

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Satellite-television broadcaster Noorsat of Bahrain, which has developed into a competitive threat to Middle East rivals Arabsat and Nilesat by leasing capacity from Eutelsat of Paris, has purchased an additional three transponders on Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird 4A spacecraft, bringing its total to more than 30 transponders, Eutelsat and Noorsat announced Oct. 1.

Noorsat Co. W.L.L. now has capacity equivalent to two small telecommunications satellites of its own aboard Eutelsat satellites at 7 degrees west, where Atlantic Bird 4A is stationed, and at 25.5 degrees east, aboard Eutelsat’s Eurobird 2 satellite. “The satellites Noorsat is using cover all the Arab world, all of Europe and extend to parts of Africa and Southwest Asia all the way to Afghanistan,” Noorsat said in an Oct. 1 response to Space News questions. In an Oct. 1 statement, Noorsat Chief Executive Omar Shoter, who founded the company and began leasing capacity in 2005, said the expansion in direct-to-home television in the Middle East is likely to continue.

“Our expansion is based on the prospect of seeing the number of channels in the [Middle East and North Africa] region increase over the next three years,” Shoter said. “We are preparing for the introduction of high-definition TV channels. … To build headroom for growth, it is important for us to look to the long term.” Noorsat delivers more than 170 subscription and free-to-air channels, including programming from two recently merged Middle East satellite-television platforms, Orbit and Showtime.

Noorsat’s decision to enter into additional multiyear leases comes as Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat and Nilesat of Egypt are also expanding their fleets, with Nilesat also taking advantage of spare Eutelsat capacity in addition to purchasing a new satellite for its own fleet.

This trio of satellite television operators in one of the world’s most dynamic satellite telecommunications markets is scheduled to become a quartet in 2010, when YahLive — a joint venture of SES of Luxembourg and YahSat of the United Arab Emirates — debuts Ku-band television broadcasts from the Yahsat 1A satellite scheduled for launch in 2010.