While it’s true that Eutelsat’s roots are European, the Middle East and North Africa is more than ever a key market for us. Our coverage included part of this region right from the outset, but over the past three decades, we have extended and improved it considerably. More than half of our 34-satellite fleet currently covers MENA, and one of our new satellites currently on order will also offer coverage of the region. Working with many of the leading companies in the region, we see great potential for growth, exciting technical challenges and considerable scope for innovative solutions.
What is your main focus in the region?
Eutelsat and Nilesat together are the undisputed leaders for DTH broadcasting in the MENA region. The 7/8 degrees West position was recently confirmed by independent research as first choice for satellite homes in the region, with an audience of over 51 million homes. This represents more than 90% of TV households. Since 2010 the number of TV channels benefitting from this prime location has increased by more than 50%. There are now 1,200 TV channels, of which at least 90 are in High Definition, and exclusive pay-TV and free-to-air content is available from the 7/8 degrees West hotspot.
In addition to the 7/8 degrees West position, the HOT BIRD orbital neighbourhood at 13 degrees East is a key bridge for Arab communities living in Europe and for Europeans living in MENA. Today, HOT BIRD is one of the world’s largest video hotspots with more than 1,100 channels, of which over 100 are Arabic native. Market-leading pay-TV platforms and a strong free-to-air line-up have driven the steady expansion on HOT BIRD to 66 million DTH homes in 2014.
This shows very clearly that the broadcast market is of paramount importance for us and is an increasingly sophisticated environment in the MENA region. Leading media groups, such as Al Jazeera, MBC and OSN, are setting new benchmarks for quality programming and driving up audiences, creating a virtuous circle for market growth.
As well as our market-leading satellite services, we have built strong partnerships with other operators besides Nilesat, in particular Gulfsat and Noorsat. This allows us to work closely with broadcasters, premium networks and service providers and be better prepared to anticipate and meet the requirements in the MENA region.
This neighbourhood is about to be further strengthened by the new EUTELSAT 8 West B satellite, scheduled for launch mid-2015. The market is also benefitting from the recently re-located EUTELSAT 7B satellite at 7° East, which is particularly suited to serving regional and linguistic markets in the region.
We can also provide solutions to enable new data and video point-to-multipoint distribution, and efficient, cost-effective broadcast solutions in the Ka-band, with our tailored satellite services. And Eutelsat is also actively promoting connected TV services in the MENA region, via our innovative ‘smart LNB’ system. This can transform DTH audiences into fully interactive homes. Broadcasters and platform operators can operate linear television and connected TV services directly via Eutelsat.
Is Eutelsat active in other segments of the telecoms market?
Definitely. Eutelsat is working with partners to develop digital opportunities across the region. Last year, for example, we deployed an in-orbit satellite to 48° East, which delivers full national coverage to Afghanistan. The satellite has been co-branded AFGHANSAT 1 following an agreement between Eutelsat and Afghanistan Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and will be used to enhance deployment of Afghanistan’s national broadcasting and telecommunications infrastructure as well as its international connectivity. AFGHANSAT 1 will support a wide range of services, including broadcasting, mobile telephony backhaul and IP connectivity, providing access to ICT and broadcast services especially in otherwise un-served areas of the country.
We have also opened the first Ka-band spotbeam over the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar, and are in active discussions with local telcos to build an offer in these countries. There is considerable interest in exploiting this new frequency range and realizing the benefits of competitively-priced, easy-to deploy Ka-band terminals.
Another important market is DTT rollout. TDA, Algeria’s national broadcasting company, uses our EUTELSAT 5 West A satellite as a key component in the country’s transition into a fully digital broadcasting environment. And expansion of our activities in Algeria is continuing through the recent contract with Divona for capacity on the EUTELSAT 21B satellite enabling them to accelerate their deployment of a digital infrastructure.
What about ground infrastructure?
Eutelsat operates a network of teleports which is a powerful tool for connecting the MENA region to Europe and beyond. We own and operate teleports in France, Italy, Madeira and Mexico, offering the highest technical and security standards and a full range of services including video broadcast, content distribution and data services. We also work closely with a growing number of certified and partner teleport operators to enhance the access to and coverage of our network worldwide.
Access to the internet (for trunking services) is provided via three major Tier1 ISPs, and Eutelsat has access to a network of dedicated leased lines.
The teleports feature some 150 transmit and receive antennas dedicated to managed services. They operate in the C, Ku and Ka frequency bands and have visibility of satellites located on an arc extending from 117° West to 172° East.
As a historical partner of leading MENA operators, committed to developing universal access to the main digital networks, Eutelsat continues to invest significant resources to help our customers grow their business in these markets.