SES Taps Newtec for Astra2Connect Gear

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Newtec of Belgium and SES of Luxembourg have signed a broad agreement under which Newtec will provide Ka-band gear for SES’s Astra2Connect satellite consumer broadband service, much as Newtec has been providing Ku-band equipment for the service’s current customers.

Under the agreement, which Newtec said could be valued at up to 70 million euros ($101 million) if all options are exercised, Newtec will provide Ka-band hubs and terminals for Astra2Connect as the service moves from Ku-band to Ka-band.

SES has signed a similar framework agreement for Astra2Connect Ka-band hardware with Gilat Satellite Networks of Israel.

SES has three satellites — Astra 2F, Astra 2E and Astra 2G — planned for launch into its 28.2 degrees east orbital slot between late 2012 and 2014. Each carries Ka-band capacity to provide higher throughput than what Astra2Connect could guarantee to its future customers in Ku-band.

“The future of consumer broadband services over satellite is Ka-band,” Newtec Chief Executive Serge Van Herck said in an Aug. 10 statement. “The total capacity offered by other commercial frequency bands cannot possibly cope with new demands.”

Astra2Connect has more than 80,000 subscribers in Europe.

Richard C.R. Schaap, director of sales and business development for broadband systems at Newtec, said in an Aug. 17 email that Newtec has already delivered more than 100,000 Ku-band terminals to Astra2Connect Internet service providers and resellers.

Schaap said the new contract with SES not only covers Ka-band but also includes a renewal of a 2006 accord covering Astra2Connect Ku-band hardware.

A key feature in the contract will facilitate the migration of Astra2Connect customers to the future Ka-band service without the need to replace all their current hardware.

“We believe this is a very important message,” Schaap said. “Newtec has preserved the life cycle of the current terminals procured by end users.”

Astra2Connect recently increased the maximum speed offered to its Ku-band subscribers to 6 megabits per second. The Ka-band gear will provide speeds of more than 10 megabits per second.

Schaap said Newtec’s current Astra2Connect production line can manufacture 15,000 terminals per month. If required, he said, a second production line could be opened.

Newtec has made a selling point of its Sat3Play terminals the fact that most consumers can install them on their own, without professional assistance.