Downturn will not impact satellite launch plans: Arabsat CEO

The president and CEO of Arabsat Eng. Khalid Balkheyour has declared the company's ambitious strategy to launch a new satellite every year until 2012 will not be swayed by the current economic downturn.

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The president and CEO of Arabsat Eng. Khalid Balkheyour has declared the company’s ambitious strategy to launch a new satellite every year until 2012 would not be swayed by the current economic downturn.

Speaking exclusively to DPme.com at CABSAT, Balkheyour said the $700 million project to replace an existing satellite and launch three other high-capacity birds remained key to Arabsat’s long-term growth plan to support the development of new broadcast services, such as high-definition television.
“Given the current economic crisis, it’s a major announcement for us,” he said.
“We are optimistic about our growth plans in the region. Of course we face competition from new players entering the market and other external circumstances, but we are confident our strategy will hold us in good stead moving forward.”
Balkheyour revealed the new satellites would provide almost double the bandwidth of existing Arabsat satellites in orbit.
“The new satellites will also allow for the launch of high definition services,” he confirmed. “We are planning to allocate a certain amount of capacity on each satellite for these services. Of course, HD demands a significant amount of bandwidth, but with compression technologies improving all the time, the strain on bandwidth will ease.
“Broadcasting remains a core market for us in the MENA region.”
Balkheyour also revealed Arabsat had signed a landmark deal with the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) which would see its member broadcasters gain access to Arabsat’s MENOS content exchange network.
“We first began developing MENOS three years ago and officially launched the service in January from Jeddah,” he said. “Our key client to date is the Saudi Ministry for Information and most of the major broadcasters based in Jeddah.”
The MENOS service allows broadcast clients to route all audio and video data through Arabsat’s network operations centre, providing real-time access to all data stored on the network and providing communications capabilities between remote locations.
“All exchanged content is instantly archived allowing other broadcast operations on the network to gain instant access to the data material,” explained Balkheyour.
The Arabsat chief also revealed that despite the broader economic challenges facing the region, competition among satellite service providers remained fierce.
"Satellite is a high risk market, even logistically, in terms of the challenges facing new launches,” he said. “If you manage to successfully launch a new bird, meeting customer demand and fending off your rivals is the next major challenge.
 “Competition among satellite service providers is fierce in this region. We constantly have to review our margins to stay ahead of our competitors.
“The other great unknown is what impact the economic crisis will have on our industry. So far the impact has been minimal on the satellite sector. Broadcast has traditionally endured during economic downturns, so we are confident of riding out the current predicament. However, no single industry will remain untouched by this downturn.”

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