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Yahsat Shifts Focus to Commercial Side of Civil-Military Sat System

PARIS — Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. (Yahsat) of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, appears to be moving toward a more commercial focus for its two-satellite civil-military system as it views the rapid increase in demand for C-band capacity in Africa and Ku-band capacity in the Middle East, Yahsat Chief Commercial Officer Shawkat Ahmed said. The result may be a system with more commercial capacity.

, a start-up satellite operator that already has financed its $1.66 billion project, has ordered two large satellites equipped with a large Ka-band payload for military communications as well as C- and Ku-band capacity for commercial users. Both satellites are under construction by a team led by Astrium Satellites and ThalesAlenia Space, both of
. The first Yahsat is scheduled for launch in late 2010, with the second scheduled for launch six months later.

Ahmed said that given the evolution of the market in which Yahsat will operate, the company has decided to modify the payload of the second satellite, with a final decision on the configuration expected in mid-October.

Ahmed declined to specify the modifications, but noted that “today we have a shortage of Ku-band capacity in the
Middle East
, and a shortage of C-band in
. The forecasts are for a continued demand increase, so operators are more bullish about the business and satellites are going to be much bigger.”

The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces became Yahsat’s first major government customer with a contract to lease capacity for 15 years.

Ahmed cited Euroconsult forecasts predicting that for the large region including the
Middle East
South Asia
, transponder demand will increase from about 900 transponders currently to
1,300 in
has become a major hub for uplinking television broadcasts. Some 200 channels are uplinked from there now, compared to 25 years ago, according to Yahsat.

Ahmed said deregulation, while slow in much of the region, is continuing, offering market openings for Yahsat, which has targeted southwest
, the
Middle East
and much of
for its services. “We see now that
Saudi Arabia
has five licensed [very small aperture terminal satellite network] operators,
has awarded three [satellite-television] licenses, and we see the growth in
too,” Ahmed said.