Telenor Satellite Broadcasting’s (TSBc) CEO Cato Halsaa joked that about the only time he formally met with his main board CEO was when he wanted “a few hundred million dollars” in funding for yet another satellite! To date, the answer has always been positive, and clearly helped by the extremely positive results Halsaa’s division has consistently turned in.
Last year’s numbers were no different, but now with a strongly performing “breakthrough” Central/Eastern European (CEE) segment where Telenor has created a strong video neighbourhood into the region. Indeed, the 1 degree West slot is now delivering the CEE with the two largest digital broadcasting platforms, including UPC Direct, and commensurately robust revenues for both Telenor (and its orbital partner Intelsat). In total Telenor’s manifest carries some 700+ channels for its Nordic and CEE clients.
Last year saw Telenor add NOK 53 million (€6.71m) in revenues to drive overall income to NOK1.08 billion, and an EBITDA margin of better than 71 per cent, and a rapidly filling Thor 6 craft. Hence a commitment announced last month to build Thor 7 for launch towards the end of 2013 and to be ready for business early in 2014.
RFPs are out now with six satellite suppliers vying for the business. The satellite prime contractor will be announced in the next month or so, along with the launch provider. Thor 7 will add further capacity for HDTV (and 3D) growth, as well as provide Ka-band coverage for greater Europe’s maritime and aeronautical users.
The really good news is that Telenor already holds MOUs with a number of clients for extra capacity on Thor 7. “The broadcast business in the Nordic region and now in the CEE means we are reaching more than 17 million subscribing homes from 1 degree West.”
“We also have a small but profitable position in the Middle East,” said Halsaa, from an inclined orbit satellite (Thor 3) operating from 4 degrees West.
However, Telenor has always enjoyed a modest but now growing maritime segment, and this is an opportunity that Telenor fully intends to exploit with Thor 7. While it is not yet clear what the total capacity aboard the satellite will be, one element is clear: it will carry a Ka-band multiple spot beam cargo. These will look at the Eastern Atlantic (from Iceland down to North Africa), the North Sea, the whole of the Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Caspian Sea, as well as reaching the Persian Gulf.
“The new order is a simple one, and represents a pure expansion satellite for Europe as well as the Ka-band and pan-European Ku-beams. We needed this satellite to provide long-term capacity growth for our clients, and we see further expansion possibilities for datacom expansion. Our transmission rights cover Ka-band and we see these as providing extra growth capacity,” added Halsaa. He explained that Thor 7 would also protect and provide restoration/redundancy for Thor 5 and 6 as part of its mission.