Following the opening of SES' office in the Middle East, we spoke to Hussein Oteifa, General Manager, Middle East, to catch up with his plans for the region.
1. Competition in the MEA region is fierce. How do you intend to differentiate SES from other satellite operators?
Having been around In the Middle East since 2001, we have built strong relationships with our customers from across the region, and have grown with them over the years. We understand their business and know of their ambitions to grow within and beyond the region and work towards fulfilling them. This has been what sets us apart from other satellite operators in the last decade and will continue to be our main differentiating factor.
One of the things SES has been doing and will continue to do is to tailor our satellites for our customers’ unique business needs. One good example is the decision to procure a new satellite – SES-12 – a satellite with a high-throughput payload that can adequately provide our data customers with cost-effective satellite capacity.
We recognise that innovation is key to consistently helping our customers to meet the changing demands of the evolving communications landscape. That is why we go the extra mile for our customers. Together with antenna manufacturers, we co-developed a solution that would allow our customers to uplink and downlink from SES satellites use 60cm C-band antenna on board maritime vessel instead of the typical 1.8m C-band antenna.
Another way we have differentiated ourselves is our belief that the whole satellite industry must work together to benefit the end-consumers. As such SES launched the inaugural SES Technical Academy earlier this year in Dubai to provide technical training for our customers. This knowledge transfer platform enables our customers to learn about the latest industry developments from the United States and Europe and apply them in their own fields.
Last but not least, we can also provide a portfolio of satellite services such as digital video broadcasters ground services and operations, high-speed satellite broadband, ground infrastructure services and consultancy services to customers who require more than satellite capacity.
2. Where do you think demand is strongest in the region? And how is SES equipped to serve this demand?
Satellite is ideal for regions where geographical constraints and low population density make it difficult and uneconomical to lay terrestrial infrastructure. Due to current geopolitical situation in the region, satellite is seen as a resilient and reliable form of connectivity to provide news and information, welfare communications and emergency communications networks.
In the Middle East, our key customers are telco operators and key service providers, who rely on our satellites to roll out mobile backhaul networks to connect remote areas, enable regional and nationwide banking operations, connect remote sites of oil and gas industries and provide connectivity to maritime vessels to support the business operations of many enterprises across the region. We also expect to see a surge in connectivity demands from the aeronautical industry, mirroring the global trend of passengers wanting to stay connected even when in the skies.
Having launched ASTRA 2E in 2013, we now have nine satellites serving the Middle East and over 50 satellites worldwide. We have also just procured another satellite – SES-12 – that would be able to deliver the much-needed connectivity in the region when launched in 2017. Being a global satellite operator, SES can also relocate satellites to meet customers’ requirements if necessary.
3: Does SES have plans to build Ka-band satellites to serve the region?
At SES, we build our satellites based on the bands that match the applications and regions we wish to serve. Our newly-launched satellite for the Middle East, ASTRA 2E, has a Ka-band uplink beam that can be configured for use. It is also possible to uplink in Ka-band on our upcoming satellite, SES-12. After having consulted our customers, we have opted to build SES-12’s high-throughput payload in Ku-band as it is compatible with existing networks of our customers, and enables us to cost-effectively fulfil the needs of our customers in the Middle East.
SES' customers who are keen on Ka-band satellite solutions may be interested to know that we have invested in O3b Networks, which is operating the world’s first Medium Earth Orbit MEO satellite constellation, and has a regional office in Dubai too. O3b's Ka-satellites' massive throughput per beam and low latency are well-suited for telcos and ISPs operating in the Middle East and Africa.
4. Are there plans to further expand the Dubai office?
It’s too early to comment at this stage especially since we have just opened our Dubai office comprising of an initial core team of six highly-skilled employees in the field of engineering, sales and business development. We will be supported on an international level through our Luxembourg headquarters and regional offices in Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Americas to ensure we can respond promptly to our customers’ expansion plans across the Middle East and in high-growth regions beyond the region.
5. What other investment does SES have in the region?
We have also collaborated with Yahsat to form YahLive, a satellite broadcasting company providing premium services to media and broadcasters in the Middle East. YahLive aims to bring on board select content from the most wanted entertainment and news channels to cater to its culturally diverse viewers, which include Farsi, Arabic, and Kurdish speaking audiences. YahLive also aims to bring this content to expatriates from these regions living in the GCC and in Europe. YahLive is broadcasting 110 channels in HD and SD in Farsi, Arabic, and English languages from the orbital slot of 52.5 degrees East.