Solaris Mobile, the S-band satellite joint-venture between SES and Eutelsat, is seeking fresh investors for the project. SES CEO Romain Bausch said Solaris’ progress in seeking commercial deals has been slower than expected. Solaris Mobile was an additional payload on Eutelsat’s W2A craft, launched in 2009. While W2A is working perfectly, the Solaris Mobile payload has a problem with its giant antenna which means that it functions with less than 100 per cent efficiency.
Solaris Mobile was originally envisioned as a vehicle to provide DVB-H mobile TV signals and as a ‘gap filler’ to terrestrial transmissions from national telephone companies. The problem is that DVB-H is very much a dead duck in Europe, which has forced Solaris and its CEO Steve Maine to seek other uses.
“The approach we have always taken, together with Eutelsat, is that Solaris will remain a satellite infrastructure provider, contracting capacity to third parties that are investing in the necessary complimentary terrestrial infrastructure. What has shifted since the launch of Solaris in 2006 is that, unfortunately, mobile TV has not really developed the way we anticipated it would a few years ago. The focus is now more on two-way broadband communications rather than on broadcasting. The bandwidth that Solaris is making available can be used in order to supplement bandwidth that will be offered in other frequency bands by terrestrial operators,” Bausch told Satellite News.
Solaris Mobile currently has 2 x 15 MHz of capacity. This matches an exactly similar slice of bandwidth that was allocated to Inmarsat, but not yet taken up by the London-based satellite operator. Maine has made it clear that he’d like to get his hands on that capacity.
Bausch says that Solaris is in the middle of “intensive discussions” with potential users, however, useful a contract or two would be to help mop up that 30 MHz of capacity, it is not much when compared to a single (conventional) satellite transponder.
“However, we are talking with broadcasters and other service providers about offering regular services to some of the target markets,” Bausch added, but admitted “There needs to be another satellite in order for Solaris Mobile to really work and it needs to be designed to fit the investor’s target markets. But, that requires an additional investment and we are speaking of an investment of around €250 million ($354m) or even more. This takes time. We are negotiating for a complete eco-system, where the space component and the ground component come together. The investors also need to have sufficient confidence that there are operators out there that will really use this offer.”