Capacity crowd

An overview of the Middle East's vibrant satellite services market.
ABS, Arabsat, Eutelsat, GlobeCast, Gulfsat, Jordan Media City, M-three satcom, Nilesat, Noorsat, Samacom, SES Astra, Yahlive, Analysis, Delivery & Transmission
ABS, Arabsat, Eutelsat, GlobeCast, Gulfsat, Jordan Media City, M-three satcom, Nilesat, Noorsat, Samacom, SES Astra, Yahlive, Analysis, Delivery & Transmission


The options available to TV stations looking for direct to home (DTH) distribution are plentiful. As prices prepare to shift in response to the number of new satellites scheduled, the next capacity contract broadcasters sign could bring big savings. Digital Broadcast presents a guide to the options available to channels looking for Middle East distribution.

The Middle East satellite sector is on the brink of radical change.

New contribution services and additional capacity for HD services are driving demand and sending prices upwards. However, the number of dedicated satellites serving the region is set to increase at an average rate of two per year for the next four years, expanding the already abundant options available to broadcasters looking to secure distribution.

In theory this flow of new capacity should also bring down prices, meaning finding the right deal could now mean big savings.

Satellite operators

ABS currently operates two satellites that it acquired and renamed. Since its original procurement of Koreasat-2 (now ABS-1) the company has grown its revenues by 500 percent.

The company is launching its first new satellite in mid-2012. ABS-2 will include high-powered Ku- and C-band beams and has already signed numerous lease agreements on the new hardware.

ABS-2’s Ku-band beam will be split into five spot beams including one dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa, making it a strong contender for broadcasters looking to reach audiences in the Arab world.


Despite facing increasing competition Arabsat continues to be one of the most important players in the Middle East satellite sector. The company has the most extensive fleet expansion plan that will underpin a large share of the region’s broadcasters in the coming years.

The company also provides a number of contribution services and is the platform for the ASBU’s MENOS content exchange programme.

The first of the company’s fifth generation satellites – Arabsat 5a – is scheduled for launch towards the end of this month marking a major milestone in the operator’s development.


Eutelsat is one of the largest satellite operators broadcasting 3400 channels across the world. Its fleet is well utilised in the Middle East with the capacity it provides crucial to supporting the region’s broadcast industry.

The company has also stood out from the crowd recently as an innovator in 3D broadcasting. Its IBC stand last year featured a live 3D transmission of a basketball match in the US. Eutelsat has also broadcast numerous live sporting events in 3D to cinema chains around Europe.


Perhaps not an obvious choice for broadcasters however, the company has exhibited at the previous four CABSAT exhibitions demonstrating its commitment to serving customers in this region.

The company’s three satellites offer C- and Ku- band capacity covering Russia, Western Europe and the Middle East as well as large parts of central and east Asia.


Content management and transmission provider GlobeCast provides satellite capacity to complement the fibre networks, SNG services and playout centres that it provides around the world.

The company effectively provides global satellite coverage via capacity on Eutelsat, SES, Arabsat, Intelsat and many others.


In addition to offering coverage on some satellites from the Arabsat and Eutelsat fleets, Gulfsat also offers point-to-point connectivity between the region, Europe and the US. It also has end-to-end playout facilities capable of supporting HD transmissions and providing a high-level of redundancy by transmitting simultaneously from its teleports in Kuwait and Bahrain.

The company also runs studio facilities in Kuwait and an SNG truck to support broadcasters covering special events.

Hellas Sat

Although Hellas Sat’s primary market is in southern and eastern Europe, the firm’s Hellas Sat 2 satellite provides strong coverage over the Middle East. The company uses it wide footprint and the nature of its existing multinational content to position itself as a specialist DTH capacity provider for broadcasters targeting specific ethnic groups or niche markets.

It also provides video contribution services and content delivery services to cable headends and teleports for the final leg of transport.


Nilesat is one of the oldest operators in the region and, together with Arabsat, dominates the market for DTH capacity in the Middle East.

Last year the company became one of the first operators in the region to support multi-channel HD broadcasting. It too has plans for fleet expansion at its 7 degree west position. Nilesat 201 – scheduled for launch in mid-2010 – will be one the most significant new additions to the Nilesat family expanding the range of services that the company can handle, as well as the volume.

SES Astra

SES Astra and its SES World Skies subsidiary have numerous interests in the Middle East satellite sector. As well as being a partner in Yahsat’s YahLive DTH service, the firm also serves the region from a number of its own satellites.

Last month the company launched Astra 3B to the 23.5 degrees east position. The satellite will operate a 12-transponder Ku-band spot beam for the Middle East.


Bahrain-based Noorsat delivers almost 200 channels. The company claims to have several unique selling points. It was one of the first privately-owned satellite operators to emerge in the region.
Through its leased space segment with Eutelsat, the firm offers capacity at both the Arab world’s hotspots at 7 degrees west and 25.5 degrees east.


Although YahLive – a partnership between Abu Dhabi’s Yahsat and SES Astra – is the newcomer to the region’s satellite market and has no services online as of yet, its presence is highly significant.
Yahsat’s hardware launches – which commence in early 2011 – will represent the first time three locally-owned companies have had satellites serving the region.

As this hardware will be dedicated to the region in its entirety it will bring a major boost to the capacity available in the Middle East.

Europe Media Port, Cyprus

Europe Media Port (EMP) was named the fastest growing teleport in the world last year after experiencing revenue growth of 120 percent.

The company’s Cyprus-based teleport has access to any satellite from 45 degrees west to 90 degrees east making it ideal for DTH, contribution and other distribution services required by Middle East customers. EMP also provides playout, encryption and ad insertion.

Jordan Media City, Jordan

One of the most significant transmission centres in the Middle East, Jordan Media City (JMC) is connected to all the major operators in the region as well as being connected to content management firm GlobeCast’s fibre network.

The facility transmits more than 200 channels including the pay TV operator ART’s bouquet.

JMC is also able to offer a number of additional benefits to clients given its free zone status.

M-Three Satcom, Italy

M-Three Satcom provides a range of services from its teleport in Milan. It provides permanent satellite services via the Hotbird platform and also offers SNG services for live events in Italy and throughout Europe. The company has diversified its services in recent years and now provides systems integration services for the development of headends and other infrastructure. It has also begun operating as a distributor for several technology vendors.

Samacom (du), UAE

The Samacom teleport, owned and operated by du Broadcast Services, has grown into one of the busiest teleports in the Middle East. The teleport currently handles more than 160 channels and is still expanding.

The Samacom will soon include the headend for the UAE’s DVB-H service. It will also transmit a growing number of HD channels this year as clients take advantage of the HD uplinking and playout capabilities already installed.

Telespazio, Italy

Italian firm Telespazio operates 25 ground sites including the world’s largest non-military earth station with 90 antennas.

Telespazio can provide DTH services via Eutelsat’s Hotbird satellites at 13 degrees east for around 50 TV channels and 20 radio stations.

The firm can also provide teleport facilities via its own earth station network and SNG services.

It also acts as a teleport systems integrator.

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