Advanced Television

Arabsat confirms 44.5 deg E.

May 20, 2013

By Chris Forrester

Arabsat has leased an aging satellite from Telesat of Canada and placed its at the 44.5 degrees East orbital slot where it will be a place-holder until Arabsat can free up one of their fleet. Arabsat is launching 4 new satellites over the next 3 years.

Arabsat’s CEO Khalid Balkheyour, speaking exclusively to Inside Satellite TV, said the new location was an important part of Arabsat’s expansion plan. “We finally obtained registration with the ITU for the 44.5 deg East location where we have formal filings for the BSS spectrum. The ITU rules require operators to bring their filings into use so we have leased a satellite in April from our good friends at Telesat. We have good filings in other spectrum which we will also bring into use.”

Balkheyour explained that this was a new spot that Arabsat was extremely serious about. “We will be promoting this for sale and lease, and our comprehensive plan also calls for us to launch our 6A satellite to 30.5 degrees, and to replace and enhance HellasSat [at 39 degrees East] where our acquisition has now closed. There is also a plan to build a third satellite [for 44.5] provided we identify a hosted payload partner [with an Arabsat signatory partner for governmental use]. The hosted payload partner is key to the financing of a third satellite at the position.”

“44.5 gives us a beautiful coverage, for the whole of the MENA region, plus Africa and probably as far as Pakistan.”   Balkheyour also admitted that Arabsat is open to other acquisitions, and further fleet expansion. “We have new orbital positions and might see other opportunities out there as long as they make sense and enhance the fleet. They take time and effort, but we have an appetite to grow.”

“The HellasSat deal is teaching us new lessons. Most people might think that doing the deal, after all the hard work of negotiations and due diligence, was hard enough but that the deal’s closure would be the end of the hard work. Not so. We knew there would be a post-acquisition phase, where we would have to concentrate on teasing out the various synergies that we want. We are hiring a consultant to help us through this next phase, and to make sure that we can sell their capacity and they sell ours. The process extends right through HellasSat and Arabsat, where we need to establish good working practices between us both, and how best to achieve them.”

“We are now actively talking with both teams as to the shape and potential for HellasSat 3 and we hope to finalise these discussions into an RFP once we are clear as to spectrum rights and so forth, and how HellasSat 3 can also fit into our Arabsat expansion plans. WE are hoping to finalise this later this summer, and to then order a satellite for delivery and launch probably in 2016,” said Balkheyour. “This will be around 18 months ahead of HellasSat 2’s end of life.”

Referring to the long-running 25.5/26 degree East orbital dispute with Eutelsat (and its Qatari partners in Es’Hail Sat) Balkheyour joked that he hoped that the dispute would be resolved in his lifetime!  “It is a disappointment. There has been absolutely no progress since Washington [the Satellite 3013 show in mid-March]. Operationally we are respecting each other, but as yet there’s no formal agreement which we can then jointly present to the ITU. Eutelsat and Arabsat need to agree on the FSS situation, but it seems Eutelsat is now looking to widen the scope of the planned agreement. I am keen that we wrap up the FSS agreement after which we can happily talk about other matters such as other coordination issues. There is nothing on the horizon.”

One of the problems seems to be that Eutelsat elevated its complaints via the formal French licensing/regulatory body (ANFR) which has raised the matter via its opposite numbers in the other nations concerned. This has complicated the process as far as Arabsat is concerned. “This is now in the hands of the politicians and civil servants, and outside our control. Because of this it means that many of regulatory bodies are now involved, including the ITU of course. But I want to see the core FSS issues resolved. We can then move onto other matters, but let us take it step by step.”

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