Russia Pulls Plug on Public Satellite Broadband Project

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WASHINGTON — A planned national Ka-band broadband satellite program by Russia’s state-owned RT Com has been canceled because of a lack of financing, a development that may leave more operating room for Russia’s two satellite fleet operators, Russian industry officials said.

The cancellation of the RT Com project, for which MDA Corp. of Canada and Gilat Satellite Networks of Israel had been positioned as suppliers, does not mean a slowdown in Russian adoption of Ka-band satellites for broadband, the industry officials said.

Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) of Moscow already leases four beams on Paris-based Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat Ka-band spot-beam satellite for an intended consumer broadband service.

RSCC has also ordered the AM-5 and AM-6 satellites from prime contractor ISS Reshetnev of Russia, with MDA providing the payload electronics, and expects shortly to make a selection of a ground-network provider for the Ka-band portion of the payload.

Andrey Kirillovich, RSCC director for integration services and complex projects, said at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington March 19 that, similar to the experience of U.S. satellite broadband providers, the highest demand for consumer broadband in Russia is coming from areas adjacent to metropolitan areas.

Kirillovich said RSCC has been leasing the Ka-Sat capacity to test the market, and has been surprised to see high demand in areas such as the region of St. Petersburg, which is already served by DSL and fiber links.

Other RSCC officials said the Ka-Sat lease may continue for some time as RSCC weighs the market’s appetite for broadband.

Sergey Pekhterev, chief executive of Altegrosky, a Russian provider of satellite services, said March 20 that the RT Com project was too ambitious, and ultimately too expensive, to find support among the relevant Russian government ministries. But he said a commercially oriented consumer broadband offer in Russia is likely to find a wide market.