Thaicom seeks interim satellite to meet broadcasters' demand

Economy July 31, 2014 00:00

By Usanee Mongkolporn

The Nati

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Thaicom plans to seek an interim satellite to serve rising demand for broadcasting service in Thailand ahead of the launch of Thaicom 8, chief executive officer Suphajee Suthumpun said.

“We’re looking for a satellite to provide broadcasting service only for a year and a half before launching Thaicom 8,” she said.

Thaicom 8, worth US$178.5 million (Bt5.69 billion), is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2016. However, the company has witnessed surging demand for satellite broadcasting service in the domestic market, while its existing Thaicom 5 and 6 satellites are running at almost full capacity.

The high demand is coming from operators of high-definition TV channels. Currently Thaicom 5 and 6 serve 677 channels. Of that number, 116 are HD, up from 74 last year.

Thaicom 8 will occupy the 78.5-degrees-east orbital slot, the same location as Thaicom 5 and 6. Thaicom 8 will have 24 Ku-band transponders, covering Thailand, South Asia and Africa. It will serve customers’ needs for increased Ku-band capacity and also strengthen the Hot Bird platform at 78.5 degrees east. Orbital Sciences Corporation will be the manufacturer of the satellite and Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) will launch it.

Thaicom will ask for a permit from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to use an interim satellite. The NBTC has already awarded a licence to Thaicom to operate both the upcoming Thaicom 7 and 8 satellites and other future satellites. The company is scheduled to launch Thaicom 7 next month to 120 degrees east longitude.

Meanwhile, the NBTC plans to propose to the upcoming National Legislative Assembly that it amend the regulations that divide the roles of the NBTC and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry in overseeing the satellite sector. Currently the ICT Ministry is the one granting the satellite operator the right to use a particular orbital slot, while the NBTC grants the licence to operate the satellite.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said the satellite sector should be under the charge of a single entity, either the NBTC or the ministry. The NBTC will appoint a joint subcommittee of the ministry and the commission to work on this issue and submit the resolution to the legislative assembly. In a related matter, Suphajee said Thaicom planned to issue between Bt3-4 billion worth of bonds to boost its financial liquidity for future satellite launches.

Meanwhile, she denied rumours that cable TV operator CTH plans to buy Thaicom businesses in Laos and Cambodia.

She said CTH was only in talks with Thaicom’s subsidiary Cambodian DTV Network (CDN) on the possibility of jointly broadcasting English Premier League matches in Cambodia.

CTH currently holds the right to broadcast EPL soccer matches in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

CDN is a satellite operator that provides Ku-band transponder service for direct-to-home platforms covering the whole Indochina region.

In a separate matter, Thaicom, BEC-Tero Entertainment and Central Pattana have agreed to hold a joint exhibition, “Nasa – A Human Adventure”, for the first time in Thailand from December 1 to February 1. Currently, the exhibition is being held in Chiba, Japan.

The exhibition allows visitors to experience the history of space exploration, an undertaking that requires a tremendous amount of work and research. It is produced by John Nurminen Events in cooperation with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, and the US Space and Rocket Center.

About 350 space-exploration-related objects are featured, including a real g-force simulator and a circular screen with 360-degree views containing information about the sun and the planets in the solar system.