Regional operators seek flexibility through partnerships, technology

PARIS — To remain profitable during a period of dramatic change in the communications industry, regional satellite operators are adopting innovative technology and establishing partnerships, according to panelists at the World Satellite Business Week conference here.

“The telecommunications business is very much surfing from one wave to another,” Stéphane Chenard, Euroconsult senior associate consultant, said Sept. 10. “You cannot hold onto that pot of money anywhere in the telecom industry, you have to keep moving.”

In the past, regional satellite operators saw expansion of the terrestrial infrastructure as a threat to their businesses. Now, they see promise in working with marine cable and fiber operators to offer backup when terrestrial infrastructure is disrupted.

“That is a growing application because it needs to be very quick and on demand,” said Carmen Gonzalez-Sanfeliu, ABS chief commercial officer. “Our ability to partner with some marine cable operators or fiber operators is critical for their viability and our viability.”

Brazilian satellite operator Star One works closely with anchor customer and shareholder Claro Americas, a Mexican telecommunications company owned by America Movil that serves Central and South America. Star One’s service complements Claro’s mobile network in areas that lack terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure, said Lincoln Oliveira, Star One general director. Fiber does not extend, for example, to some cities in the Amazon region, where Star One provides service, he added.

Through partnerships, regional satellite operators are avoiding the type of head-to-head competition that makes bandwidth a commodity, Gonzalez-Sanfeliu said. Regional satellite operators also should join forces with ground segment companies to ensure they can provide their end customers with equipment they need to take advantage of high throughput satellites and low Earth orbit constellations, Gonzalez-Sanfeliu said.

Through partnerships, Emerati fleet operator Yahsat is seeking to carve out market niches and reach new customers.

“We are going for equal partnerships,” said Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, Yahsat chief executive. “When two or more best-in-class entities get together, that is a mechanism to sustain our presence in markets in the future.”

In April, Yahsat acquired Emirati operator Thuraya.

Through that purchase, Yahsat seeks to enhance its ability to link mobile devices for government customers.Yahsat also believes the Thuraya acquisition will enhance its ability to offer machine-to-machine communications, said Mahmood said.

Regional satellite operators see new technology as one of the keys to greater flexibility in responding to changes in the market.

With software-configurable payloads, satellite operators can move spot beams and reallocate capacity, Oliveira said.

Gonzalez-Sanfeliu agreed switchable beams are an exciting innovation. In the future, when satellite operators can change the amount of capacity on these beams “on-demand, it will be fantastic,” she said. “As a provider when you have a change in the market and can switch regions, that is very exciting because it allows us to help a customer.”

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