Eddy Frankland, Vice-President and General Manager, ASTRA Enterprise Services
A. Our focus is on ASTRA’s non-DTH activities. This includes providing capacity for full-time contribution links, IP Trunking, or Occasional Use services and Special Events, such as the forthcoming 2010 World Cup in Africa. We’re also responsible for commercializing any spare inventory the company may have, and most importantly for managing the UK resellers, who are our value added resellers of ASTRA capacity, providing fibre connectivity to the earth stations, channel multiplexing and uplinking for niche or special interest channels such as home shopping, wine, golf etc.
A. It is a recent addition to ASTRA’s product portfolio, but in a relatively short time we have become a major occasional use (OU) and Special Events player – for example we were the satellite operator of choice for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. We play a major role in the backhaul of Sporting and News events such as the Bundesliga or World Events like the Olympics; it’s not a service that we had traditionally operated in until relatively recently - but now we are. This market is extremely competitive, and in a very short time we’ve grown from a small level of sales to being one of the key players in the market - it’s an achievement we’re particularly proud of!
We’re also looking at ways to innovate and expand the future market, for example by developing Ka-band frequencies for OU capacity with our service companies like ND SatCom. Related activities include a number of ongoing initiatives with regulators across Europe to assist in the use of these new frequencies.
A. ASTRA 3B has some special features that will be extremely interesting to our customers. The primary payload consists of high powered pan-European beams for DTH use, and in addition we have a number of steerable spot beams. Some can be optimised over Africa, whilst the others are optimised over the Middle East.
The spacecraft itself has a unique switching matrix which can interconnect the Ku-band frequencies to our Ka frequencies. This gives us tremendous flexibility and allows our customers to adapt their transmission services to specific markets. For example, they can uplink from the Middle East in Ku-band and downlink in Europe in Ka, or vice versa, alternatively they could up and downlink in the Middle East in Ku.
A. The flexibility of the switching matrix enables customers to utilise the connectivity they need, ie without the need to backhaul services within a specific region and then hub it back to their Headquarters. Customers can transmit out of the Middle East or Africa and downlink directly back to Europe all on one satellite: there is no need for any other infrastructure, making things simple and efficient.
The use of steerable beams allows us to optimise the signal to a customer’s specific needs, and we will be able to move the beams to focus coverage on a particular region without affecting the rest of the payload. Therefore we can be very precise with our transmission paths and working with our customers, we can use the onboard switching matrix to provide them with connectivity for wherever they want to go.
For example, during the 2010 World Cup in Africa, we’re able to steer a beam over South Africa, optimize the signal for that region and help service the peak traffic requirements that the market will experience during this major world event.
A. These features have attracted a lot of attention from a variety of customers, so much so that we’ve already pre-sold a significant number of transponders. The capacity can be used for anything but is particularly suited to broadcast, news, IP or military use. Companies such as the BBC, ITV, RTL and APTV may be interested in the capacity for satellite news gathering. The 3B satellite allows SNG units to use small low-powered terminals which can be rapidly deployed. This enables SNG to be more mobile and get to stories more quickly, because they have less equipment and fewer boxes to lug around.
As I mentioned, this capacity is also of interest to the military and government agencies for applications such as communications and surveillance, and is ideal for VSAT networks: we’ve recently sold transponders to a major telecom operator to deploy a VSAT network with 10,000 antennas throughout the Middle East.
A. Yes. DTH is our traditional and core business, and will always be so, but now we are diversifying. We’re exploring new territory outside our traditional western European markets, and we’re bringing in new customers - broadcasters, commercial clients, banks, telecoms operators, governments and ISPs - with our new and innovative services.
A. The immediate priority is to optimise the capacity over South Africa and to provide capacity and connectivity for the 2010 World Cup. After that we’ll be looking for full-time customers in countries throughout Africa. This could be anything from DTH contribution services, with uplink and downlink connectivity to/from Europe, to capacity for satellite broadband or backhauling for mobile or fixed-line telephony.
A. Some of the capacity will be used for IP trunking, providing connectivity to the internet. We already provide IP backbone connectivity and gateways in Luxembourg, to enable remote locations to enjoy internet connectivity. At our facility in Betzdorf we host a number of IP services, which tie in to our ground segment provision and uplinking.
We also have customers looking at 3B for connectivity for cellular networks, using the satellite to provide international connectivity between countries and national PSTN networks: satellite can drastically reduce the cost of routing for international calls through national carriers.
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