Martin Ornass-Kubacki, VP and chief regional officer of SES in CEE, looks at the importance of Astra 5B.
Astra 5B was launched on March 22nd. Why this satellite is so important for SES’s strategy in CEE?
The development of the 31.5 degrees East orbital slot is indeed a major step for SES in Europe, in addition to existing 19.2 degrees East, 28.2 degrees East, 23.5 degrees East and 5 degrees East orbital slots.
Astra 5B is the 56th satellite in the SES fleet. It will service Central Eastern Europe, the region that encompasses 15 countries which we are operating in from our office in Warsaw. The 31.5 degrees East channel neighbourhood will provide unparalleled capabilities for SES’s customers to expand their (local as well as universal) programming and to further develop. Moreover, moving from SD to HD and in the future to 4K is a major change in the television history and Central Eastern Europe is in the middle of that process. In the next decade we expect 4K TV to be as popular as HD is now. If we corroborate this with the fact that the nominal lifetime of the satellite is 15 years, Astra 5B is the perfect satellite to meet the needs in terms of viewing experience.
Are there any specific countries in ASTRA 5B’s footprint that SES plans to focus on in terms of its activities? If so, in what way?
The first main beneficiaries of this new satellite will be Orange TV, the DTH platform of Orange Romania, as well as CME’s Romanian and Bulgarian channels Orange TV is the Romanian platform with the widest HDTV offer in the country and one of the most impressive HDTV offers in the whole CEE region. In fact, I don’t remember any European DTH platform which from the day of its launch offered so many HD channels.
The geographical position puts Romania in the middle of the satellite footprint, but this doesn’t mean that other countries in the region are not important for us. On the contrary – we will look also at the Balkan region, which still has still a lot of growth potential. This satellite can be used in the whole of Central Eastern Europe and it also covers Russia, CIS and neighbouring countries.
What impact do you think Astra 5B will have on the TV markets in its coverage area? Why do you think that the new satellite will convince potential customers to start to use your services?
Astra 5B will be a development vector for the TV market in the region. It will provide the perfect growth platform for current and future DTH and cable operators as well as individual TV broadcasters. The examples of Orange Romania and CME perfectly prove that the 31.5 degrees East orbital position, technical excellence, on the ground services and support, as well as a commercial model – all combined in an attractive package – can be convincing for our partners.
As an industry leader we offer outstanding space segment availability of above 99.99%. Astra satellites are specifically designed and tested to meet the highest industry standards. We have also extremely reliable ground infrastructure which ensures operations of the highest availability. Our satellites are controlled by a 24/7 performance and service monitoring centre.
Also, Astra 5B is using state-of-the-art technology which will provide better coverage and an even stronger signal. Its 40 Ku-band transponders give a field for development to all who will decide to use the advantages of this satellite. Also there are 6 powerful Ka-band transponders that can be used for high-speed internet services.
Last but not least, we should not forget about the indisputable advantages of satellite distribution when we consider digital broadcasting which in some CEE countries is a very hot topic. Excellent picture quality, variety of content, close to 100% geographical coverage without “white zones” (which we often see in terrestrial broadcasting) and a clear cost structure are just the most important advantages of the satellite broadcasting. So I would say Astra 5B has arrived right on time.