Interview: Khalid Balkheyour
How is the satellite industry overcoming the limitations of the standard frequencies of bands to accommodate increasing demand?
KHALID BALKHEYOUR: Due to increasing demand for satellite business services and the congestion of orbital positions with new satellites covering populated and non-populated areas of the world, the International Telecommunication Union has approved the assignment of new frequency bands for the satellite industry in the Ku and Ka bands. The new assignment will allow the spectrum in the Ku band to be used for different services, including broadcasting for television. However, for satellite operators, the major step toward securing new services is the utilisation of the Ka band spectrum, over which a huge amount of data can be transmitted, and with which frequency reuse can even be implemented over other targeted areas.
To this end, Arabsat made sure that its new fleet of satellites can bring new bands to the market, such as Ku-bands Apx-30B and Apx-30A, Ka-band and Ka BSS-band. Arabsat, with the help of its satellite communication (satcom) equipment partners, will make sure that there is a big enough inventory of satcom equipment ready to support these new bands.
How are new technologies being developed to achieve more efficient spectrum use?
BALKHEYOUR: In recent years, all satellite operators have been implementing new technologies on board their satellites to increase data handling capabilities. They are doing this by using steerable beams and active antennas, and by switching between bands and coverages. From the ground segment side, we are noticing efforts to develop new technology in both broadcasting and telecoms services to increase the bit/Hz effort. In broadcasting, the adoption of Digital Video Broadcasting – Satellite – Second Generation (DVB-S2) transmission and High Efficiency Video Coding is moving its way into the local market, albeit slowly. Higher modular code is also benefitting broadcasting, but it is mainly considered a game changer for telecoms. In addition, new technologies such as DVB-S2 Extension, clean channel technology, Multi-Frequency, Time Division Multiple Access systems, and so on, are leading to excellent throughput in the harmonised tariff schedule Ka-band environment.
What partnerships and strategies are satellite companies pursuing to expand the reach of transmissions and programming from Arab states?
BALKHEYOUR: The Arab world is a huge market for the satellite industry, with many countries interested in building their own satellite networks. However, independent programmes are costly and require very complicated follow-up. Therefore, some of these countries are partnering with Arabsat to share resources and build new satellites, thereby meeting requirements by carrying hosted payloads designed and customised for their own use.
From a strategy perspective, we have seen mergers and acquisitions of some satellite operators aimed at reducing overall operational costs and consolidating resources for better overall profit margins and market share. For example, Arabsat acquired Hellas Sat, the Greek satellite operator, which opened up new coverage areas for us and new partnerships with different entities such as Inmarsat and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Saudi Arabia. Arabsat has also partnered up with Es’hailSat, the Qatari satellite operator, which will launch its new satellite Es’hail-2. This satellite will join the Arabsat fleet of satellites at 26 degrees east, bringing more exclusive content to this neighbourhood.
Arabsat has long enabled the Arab states to reach viewers outside the region by partnering with the Arab Sate Broadcasting Union and Globecast to launch the Global Arabic Bouquet, reaching North and South America, Africa, South-east Asia and Australia.
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