Clover’s Week: Telenor’s satellite days

Julian Clover attends Telenor Broadcast Holdings International Press Days, where satellite is in the ascendency.

Towards the end of 2011 a significant figure was reached by Telenor, when the number of subscribers to its services in Central & East Europe passed those of its Nordic business.

Not just in terms of satellite reception, where the 2,267,900 DTH households in CEE was already ahead of the 1,795,000 in the Nordics, but also in cable, the 6,726,800 reach pushing out the Nordics 6,631,500.

Both territories have anchor clients Canal Digital, itself a part of Telenor in Scandinavia, and UPC Direct that targets a number of CEE territories. There is much to play for in the CEE market and Telenor is at its strongest in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova.

There are now 22 transponders from one degree West that carry content into the CEE region.

The Canal Digital contract isn’t a given, though it has recently been renewed.

There have of course been whispers in recent years as to the future of both Canal Digital and Telenor Satellite, but Telenor Broadcast Holdings as a whole represents 7.2% of Telenor’s total revenues.

It also includes the terrestrial transmission division Norkring as well as the content security business.

Activity within satellite, and a desire to expand the datacoms business has led to plans for the new Thor 7, which includes Ka-band capacity.

The Ka-band has long been associated with communications, and that is Telenor’s aim, even though broadcasters also see the advantages of the tighter beams involved.

“This is not a new market for us, but it is a new frequency band, it’s important not to have everything new,” explained Cato Halsaa, CEO of Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, at Telenor’s International Press Days in Oslo this week.

Halsaa said the project was on schedule and a third of the way through. The contract with Arianespace means that the new satellite will launch at the earliest around the end of 2013.

Giving an interesting insight into the satellite insurance market Halsaa said Telenor was continuing with its pioneering insurance policy that it had run with Thor 5 and Thor 6.

Entering the market early, Telenor had achieved the then favourable rates of 11% [of the satellite’s value], but with the increasing reliability of launch vehicles a rate of 8% is now being targeted.