The rapid growth of urbanisation being experienced around the globe looks set to continue – according to the United Nations, the level of urban growth is projected to rise by 67 per cent by 2050. With a growing demand for effective and innovative solutions, satellite services have been under the spotlight of late.
Broadcasters as well as telco operators continue to demand more satellite connectivity because people are consuming more video and data. Maritime and aeronautical connectivity continues to grow as people expect the same kind of entertainment and convenience on their portable devices even when they are travelling for business and leisure. However, according to Hussein Oteifa, general manager, Middle East, commercial at SES, the pressure on the oil and gas industry has certainly taken its toll on corporate businesses which are holding off certain projects for the time being.
“While companies are still seeing the need for connectivity in remote areas, they are being more cautious about ordering satellite capacity in advance.” All in all, “the global MSS market is still growing in momentum, though, with expected single-digit growth in the coming decade”, says Jassem Nasser, chief strategy officer, Thuraya.
Given today’s geopolitical situation worldwide, border control and general surveillance are increasingly high on every government’s priority and likewise in the Middle East; and government institutions are increasingly relying on satellite connectivity to do so.
Another demand driver is e-banking where satellite connectivity is needed to connect ATM machines and bank offices to the central bank as well as for monitoring purposes at the CCTV cameras at the cash machines.
According to Christophe Firth, Principal, A.T. Kearney, In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia continues to be the largest market for satellite services with the biggest per capita users of YouTube and affordable mobile data plans. The UAE provides a large number of high-value customers on the broadcasting side.
The increasing number of channels and the growing demand for data services are fuelling the demand for satellite services in the region. The market has been buoyant in particular on the broadcasting side, according to Firth. In broadcasting the number of channels continues to increase, and more-and-more HD and now UHD channels are being added. “beIN's launch of its entertainment bouquets, MBC's launch of Pro Sports, and OSN's new channels have provided a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for the sector. We are seeing a fascinating battle develop between the satellite 'neighbourhoods' of Arabsat/Es'hailsat, Nilesat/Eutelsat and Yahsat”.
Broadband via satellite was once seen as a secondary option to provide basic universal access, with one of its main strengths as being able to serve primarily unconnected areas of the world. “However, as the world moves towards the Internet of Things, satellite, together with other infrastructure network, will play a key role in enabling it”, says Oteifa. SES has decided to increase its stake in O3b Networks, the satellite operator which operates medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites. “Leveraging the combined strengths of geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and MEO satellites, SES is looking into how we can better enable our customers to access our satellite network.”
Additionally new kinds of services are also on the offer. For example, SES has recently launched SES Enterprise+ Broadband service over Africa via GEO satellites. This offers high-speed broadband, and has a 'plug 'n' play' offering, with pay-as-you-go options to ensure convenient access for the service.
Challenges or opportunities in disguise?
The diverging needs and demands of customers in various sectors is challenging for the satellite service providers. The significant capacity coming onto the market, in particular on Ka-band including HTS (high-throughput satellites) is a headline trend. “In the short term at least this is going to lead to a supply-demand imbalance that will continue to push down prices in telecoms,” says Firth.
The connectivity needs have evolved over time with the onset of the IoT era, more number of mobile devices, and huge number of sophisticated applications that need to be handled. High throughput satellites (HTS) have paved the way for global satellite operators to differentiate their capacity to meet the different needs of the customers. Oteifa says: “SES is able to use HTS technology to differentiate the satellite capacity it brings to each market vertical. Examples include O3b’s Networks’ MEO satellites which are ideal for luxury cruise ships who want extremely high-speed capacity, GEO dedicated mobility beams are perfect for maritime customers and the upcoming GEO HTS beams are well-suited for aeronautical connectivity.”
To fulfil the demand for high-speed data services, Thuraya continues working closely with an ecosystem of product developers and solution partners. Thuraya’s IP portfolio has two compact, high-performing mobile satellite broadband terminals, the IP+ and the IP Voyager. Recently, this portfolio has been enhanced with the addition of the Atlas IP for maritime and IP Commander for mission critical operations. They deliver broadband speeds of up to 444kbps on standard IP and 384kbps on streaming IP.
In order to counter the impact of overall economic slowdown, service providers are resorting to newer ways of customisation and value addition. New markets present yet another opportunity. Nasser says: “We have been working in close cooperation with our distribution network to tap into new markets and educate the market through better interaction. This helps enhance our users’ experience and manage expectations, which is another challenge for those who are only used to terrestrial services.”
Growing interest in the region
Taqnia Space, Skyware Technologies and Crescent have signed a joint venture agreement in Saudi Arabia with KACST (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology) as the technology partner.
The created JV (joint venture) aims to be a global manufacturer of satellite equipment, with the initial focus on manufacturing an innovative HTS Ka terminal to provide high throughput for satellite fleets around the world. The new terminal will be serving both satellite service providers and operators in the Middle East, North Africa and worldwide.
Ooredoo and Arabsat have entered into a strategic partnership that will see the companies work together to develop new satellite services for customers. They especially plan to collaborate on new VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services, as demand for the same rises in Qatar and across the region.
Intelsat has partnered with AfricaOnline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gondwana International Networks, a provider of communications solutions across Africa, to provide a managed broadband internet service for sub-Saharan Africa. Under the agreement, Intelsat will provide satellite services via Intelsat 28 located at 33° East, and Gondwana will provide ground support and network management services from AfricaOnline’s facilities at Hartebeesthoek in South Africa. Together, Intelsat and Gondwana will deliver high-quality, Ku-band broadband service on a virtual network operator (VNO) basis.
Intelsat has further expanded its relationship with the Saudi Telecommunication Company (STC), and entered into a new contract for satellite services on Intelsat 15 located at 85.15° East. The additional connectivity from Intelsat 15 will enable STC to grow VSAT services for corporate networks in the banking, government, and oil & gas sectors operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The satellite industry’s potential comes from its ability to provide ubiquitous coverage to large geographies and its ability to serve the underserved or non-served markets. Thus the maritime, aero and M2M market segments will continue to see most potential. Nevertheless, convergence with terrestrial will be the key in the future with the new generation of satellite systems supporting interoperable devices.
THE LAUNCH DASHBOARD
O3B- Eight MEO satellites which will almost double its capacity in orbit- Scheduled time 2018
SES- Six satellites; three of which will have very high throughput beams that will be well-suited especially for customers who are looking into connecting ships and airplanes. SES-12 in particular will have coverage over the Middle East. - Scheduled time 2018
SES- GovSat-1 is a multi-mission satellite using dedicated military frequencies (X-band and military Ka-band) to provide high-powered and fully steerable spot beams.
The communications satellite has been ordered by LuxGovSat, a joint venture between SES and the Luxembourg government
Yahsat - Al Yah 3 – the new Ka-band satellite that will bring additional connectivity into 18 African countries for consumers, SOHO enterprise segments.- Scheduled time 2017
Arabsat - Badr -7- Arabsat’s first 6th generation satellite with a wide range of coverage on a variety of different frequency beams including Ka-band to provide broadband and internet services as well as direct TV broadcasting and satellite telecommunications services- Time: Nov 2015
Arabsat has three new satellites under manufacturing within the 6th generation project, they will be successively launched over the next three years.
Es’hailSat- Es’hail-2- Es’hailSat fleet covers the entire MENA region from the 25.5°/26° E orbital position with capacity in both Ku-band and Ka-band. Its satellites feature the latest anti-jamming technology.- Scheduled time Q4,2016
Intelsat - Intelsat 29e (IS-29e) - its first EpicNG next-generation high throughput satellite. Epic satellites have capacity which is between 6x-7x of normal satellites. (To be followed by launch of five more Epic satellites across 2016-2020) - Jan 2016
LeoSat- Low-earth-orbit constellation of between 78 and 108 Ka-band communications satellites- Once operational, the constellation will provide high-speed, low-latency and highly-secure communications and bandwidth to customers around the world. - 2019 or 2020