Eutelsat sees significant potential to expand its reach in the Middle East, says regional MD, Laurent Roussel.
With demand for digital content soaring in the Middle East, France-based satellite operator Eutelsat sees huge potential to expand its services in the region.
Eutelsat is a major global satellite operator with capacity commercialised on 31-satellites delivering reach of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, significant parts of the Americas and the Asia-Pacific. The group’s satellites provide a wide range of services for television, corporate networks, and fixed and mobile broadband markets.
Laurent Roussel (pictured right) was recently employed as the MD and regional sales director for Eutelsat in the Middle East. He is the head of the regional office and thinks that the market in the Middle East is ripe for growth, in terms of both broadcast and communications services.
He says: “We have seen a slowdown in Europe, but things are picking up in the Middle East, in North America and South America. There is also growing interest in Russia and the ex- Russian republic. The slowdown in Europe is mainly because of the economic crisis, but also because the migration from SD to HD has already taken place. In the Middle East, this is still growing. We are also concentrating our efforts in Ultra-HD, and we have done a demo in the region with Digiturk, and also another in Europe where we broadcast the French Open in Ultra-HD. We also have a permanent channel for demonstration, which is meant to boost the deployment of TV sets in Europe, and hopefully also here in the region, in the future.”
Roussel says the company has been performing well in terms of growth, and it has increased the number of transponders and capacity in general in the world, but also in this region, mainly an increase in DTH capacity to actually the opportunity for broadcasters to migrate from SD to HD distribution of their programmes.
“Regionally, one of our major customers is OSN which takes up a substantial amount of capacity on 7-degrees and 8-degrees satellites. Together with companies like Gulfsat and Noorsat, which have increased the number of channels, which doubled in that hotspot, we have also seen Al Jazeera buying multiple transponders on that key Middle East orbital position,” says Roussel.
On the international front, Roussel says Eutelsat has created new partnerships and expanded existing ones. “Eutelsast has extended its partnership with RSCC recently (Russian Satellite Communications Company). We also have a partnership with Nilesat on the hot 7-degree position and a new partnership with Es’hailsat for its soon-to-be launched satellite at 25.5-degrees.”
With the satellite business booming in the Middle East, Eutelsat needed to get closer to its customers, both to provide existing customers with enhanced service, as well as to scour the region for new customers. This was the reason Eutelsat decided on having a regional presence.
According to Roussel: “We needed to open an office in Dubai in order to be closer to our customers. We see a difference in culture, where the weekend is different and the religious holidays are different. We also see more customers moving to a complete solution, besides adding to the terrestrial contribution, they were also asking us to manage their complete services. Hence we wanted to be closer to them. We also wanted to feel the difference of how people do business here compared to Europe.”
“We wanted to be closer to events and shows in the region, as well as to the local media and press here. We are looking to grow our business in the region, not just in broadcast, but also in data, and sell value-added services for video exchange like for the World Cup in Qatar and hopefully the World Expo in Dubai and other big events and games in the future. We want to be prepared to help our customers and provide interconnectivity,” Roussel says.
Roussel says he sees a need in the region for broadcasters looking to carry the signal from the TV stations to terrestrial TV towers in the Middle East. For this he says there is a need to use satellite capacity to bring the signal to these towers. “We have seen such deployments here in KSA, UAE and Egypt. We also think countries like Iraq, Oman and Yemen will also have a full deployment and migration to digital terrestrial TV, and we could help customers, not only with satellite capacity, but also a complete design and consultancy or even managed services for their requirements. This is another reason we have moved to the region, to not just provide DTH services, but also other value added services,” explains Roussel.
Eutelsat thinks Ka band will soon take over. It is being used by more broadcasters, and will be especially important for the future with the advent of ultra-HD. There is an increasing need for capacity, and that is why Eutelsat is investing in very flexible steerable beams for the broadcast community that want to exchange video.
With 31-satellites orbiting the earth, Eutelsat is certainly not one to rest on its laurels. It intends to launch six new satellites within the next three years. Four of these will be for the Middle East. One of these is in partnership with Es’hailsat, which is the Eutelsat 25B satellite. Eutelsat will also launch Eutelsat 3B, which is a satellite with flexible, steerable Ka band beams. Roussel says the operator also intends to relocate satellites to provide increased capacity on the 7 to 8-degree neighbourhood. “This will also have Ka band capacity, which we have already been using to broadcast pay-TV bouquets.
We think that in the Middle East the growth will be using Ka band capacity for DTH. Hence we also developed an LNB which allows you to receive all the channels currently broadcasted in Ku, as well as channels that will be broadcasted in Ka band. This is positioned mainly for pay-TV broadcasters as well as broadcasters moving towards ultra-HD. It will make this move more affordable,” he says.
Eutelsat is also closely following the developments concerning Ultra-HD. According to Roussel the first thing is that the TV sets need to start going down in price to make it more affordable for consumers. “We can see that a few panels have already started going down in price. The size of the sets will also go down. It’s an evolution, and we are helping people promote this new technology.
As for future plans, the satellite operator wants to grow the SD to HD take-up in the region. According to its estimates Eutelsat can grow this sector by 28% in the next two years. It is offering the broadcasters the possibility to broadcast over Ka band capacity, and is striving to make this possible considering the shortage of capacity in the region as a result of being between Europe and Asia, with limited orbital slots and capacity over the Middle East.
Roussel also highlights the importance of switching to multiscreen and multi-device platforms. He says: “We are looking at hybrid and multiscreen set-top-boxes not, just here in the region, but worldwide, as it is a demand that we see especially with the younger generation that wants to watch programmes on multiple screens and devices. It’s often misunderstood that this is not possible using a satellite feed. The way this can be done is simply by bringing the signal to an intelligent box in the home and allowing the signal to be distributed to multiple devices.
“This makes it available to everyone, not just the few that have fibre to the home, or those who have ADSL or VDSL. Satellite can make it possible to share the signal with the whole population, including the rural population, therefore not just serving the 20% but effectively 100% of the population. This is the strength of satellites, as it can broadcast the signal throughout the region so everyone can take advantage of the migration from SD to HD and to multiscreen devices. It is complementary to telco or fibre initiatives for pushing video,” Roussel adds.