Ali Al Kuwari, CEO of Es’hailSat, Qatar’s first satellite operator, tells DPME about his company's plans for IBC.
DB: What is your company focusing on at IBC? What products or services will you be demonstrating?
Es’hailSat will be showcasing the Es’hail 1 satellite, launched in 2013, and providing broadcasters and content providers with high-quality coverage of the MENA region from the 25.5/26 degrees East broadcast hotspot position. We will also be previewing the Es’hail 2 satellite, which is expected to launch in Q4 2016. Es’hail2 will provide additional premium broadcast capacity to support the growth of the 26E neighbourhood. The design of the satellite will provide even greater capability for anti-jamming protection and in-orbit redundancy and backup to the existing transponders at 26E. We expect to announce the award of the procurement contract very shortly followed by the launch service provider.
DB: How important is IBC to your company’s strategy for the coming year?
IBC is the premier international event for broadcasters and as we continue to grow and develop the channels on Es’hail 1, IBC is a significant opportunity for us to showcase the new satellite capacity we are bringing to the region.
DB: What have been the most significant developments from your company in the past 12 months?
Without a doubt the successful launch of Es’hail 1 – Qatar’s first satellite – on August 29th 2013. The satellite is now operational with channel bouquets from well-known broadcasters such as beIN Sports and Al Jazeera. We also opened our satellite capacity management centre (CMC centre) in Doha to monitor and manage customer transmissions.
DB: What exciting plans do you have for the next 12 months, especially in terms of the Middle East market?
We have a number of exciting projects for the 2014/2015 timeframe. Firstly, we expect to start work on the manufacture of our Es’hail 2 satellite, which will be positioned at the 26 degrees broadcast neighbourhood. We are also working on plans for Es’hail 3. And we are currently finalising the design for our own satellite control centre at a dedicated site north of Doha. The satellites will be “flown” from there by our own staff, and the same facility will be used to transmit television channels and other traffic to the satellite, again managed by our own staff. This is a key part of our vision to provide a secure, independent satellite system to meet the needs of our customers in the future.
DB: What do you think is the biggest opportunity for your company in the Middle East?
Over the next few years the main growth driver in the middle-east should continue to be HD TV broadcasting. Today the majority of TV channels are broadcast in Standard Definition, or SD. Progressively broadcasters are making the transition to High Definition – HDTV – but that can’t be achieved overnight. Until all or at least a large majority of viewers have an HDTV television set and an HDTV set top box the broadcasters need to transmit their channels in both SD and HD formats, which leads to an increase in demand for satellite bandwidth. Fortunately for the broadcasters the move to HD can be coupled to a move to the newer transmission standard DVB-S2 which enables them to get more channels into each transponder so the economic impact on them isn’t as large as it might appear.
DB: What do you view as the main challenges affecting your industry in the Middle East and how are you addressing them?
Jamming and signal interference continue to be a problem for broadcasters in the MENA region. We have already taken steps to mitigate these issues by incorporating specific anti-jamming capabilities on Es’hail 1 and providing monitoring and trouble shooting from our CMC. We are committed to operational excellence and superior customer support and will continue to monitor and address these issues as they arise.