Paksat upbeat after first satellite receives strong take-up

by Staff Reporter | April 28th, 2013

Usman Bajwa, CEO, Paksat

We met Usman Bajwa and his Paksat team a year after their striking debut at the 2012 edition of CABSAT. A year on, the CEO says that they have experienced a faster than expected take-up of Paksat-1R capacity with more commitments on the anvil and the team is going through initial brainstorming for a follow-up satellite.

“It has been a few months since we set up our MCPC video broadcast service in collaboration with the Fujairah Media Group at the Fujairah Teleport. We have been successful in attracting regional TV channels to our satellite – channels that want to broadcast not only to Pakistan but to the region. The platform is a cost-effective plug-and-play video uplink solution that offers easy entry cost-wise to smaller broadcasters as well.

“We have the largest video neighbourhood in Pakistan and now the hub in Fujairah has helped us attract a number of international channels including Arabic and Persian TV channels. We will soon be signing up with a few more TV channels operating out of Europe and the Middle East. We have also rolled out a similar service with our teleport service partners in Greece for TV channels that are operating out of Europe, small ethnic and religious channels that want to be received in the MEA and South Asia regions. In addition, a few customers have also started test transmissions from the UK. The strategy is to try and grow the infrastructure on the ground to enable us to offer not just video broadcast but data connectivity and Internet broadband services from the UK all the way to

Malaysia in the East – not many satellites have this sort of extended reach.”

On joining the Ka-bandwagon

“We are keeping a close watch on the deployment of Ka-band solutions across the region and that is one of the options we are looking at for the next satellite.

“However the Ka-band-based business model is a definite shift from our traditional role as satellite operators. Operators are working towards a concept that comes close to a B2C approach. If the operator gets it right, the payoff will be huge. But a satellite operator will have to think like an ISP that is customer facing. You are no longer just an operator that sells raw capacity and lets the solution provider package it. Also given the coverage that transcends national boundaries, you have to think like an ISP in multiple countries, keeping in mind the diverse preferences of customers in each country and the regulatory landscape.

“While operators are currently working on different distribution models, including working with ISPs on the ground in individual countries, the challenge is finding the right fit between the service and the distribution partners.

“The ISP as a distributor poses a challenge for Ka-band services, as the satellite operator has to compete for the ISP’s attention and resources with other faster moving, higher volume services on its product portfolio. This in turn has an impact on the take-up of satellite-based

broadband services in a territory.

Afghanistan: On the opportunity next door

“We have a long-term view of the country post the 2014 Nato pullout. There will be a decline in demand for broadband and IP connectivity in the short term but we expect this to be compensated in the medium term with an increase in GSM backhaul connectivity. We have been in talks with GSM operators across the country and they have aggressive plans to expand their coverage across Afghanistan primarily through Vsat connectivity.

“Our experience in Pakistan was similar when with the spread of fibre; the IP trunking business over satellite disappeared but this decline was more than compensated by the growth of GSM operations and the backhaul business.

“We are also looking at expanding into South Asian countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.”

On the promise of DTH in Pakistan

“In the coming months and year, we are hoping that DTH sees the light of day in Pakistan. The government had initially issued DTH licenses back in 2005, but due to the political and economic situation at the time, the licensees were unable to launch services and the investor interest also cooled off. We are now seeing an increased interest from investors to undertake DTH projects in Pakistan.”

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