Casbaa satellite forum condemns 'spectrum grab'

MUMBAI: Delegates and government officials attending the 18th Casbaa Satellite Industry Forum 2007 in June were warned that the unconsidered deployment of planned wireless broadband technologies are a critical threat to the operations of the Asia Pacific satellite industry‘s C-band (3.4 GHz - 3.7 GHz range) services and the industry‘s entire livelihood.

According to Casbaa, if regional administrations allocate C-band spectrum to much-hyped WiMAX services, the impact of a "spectrum grab" from Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) technologies could be disastrous.

Over 180 decision-making executives from the satellite industry drawn from around the world participated in the Singapore event, exchanging industry insights and addressing issues facing the Asia Pacific market.


"Unlike BWA, which can be located in other spectrum bands, satellite providers do not have the option of changing frequencies. We cannot go anywhere. We cannot change frequencies for satellite services tomorrow," said AsiaSat CEO Peter Jackson.

In addition to WiMAX, various 4G mobile telephony initiatives are targeting the entire range of C-Band spectrum in meetings of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), officials attending the meeting from India, China, Hong Kong, Pakistan and Singapore were warned, states an offcial release.

"Indeed, the entire satellite industry in the Asia Pacific could be affected, with operators forced to shut down satellite services along with hundreds of TV channels. If this proposed bandwidth grab is finalised, the effects on the media and satellite industries could be catastrophic," said Casbaa CEO Simon Twiston Davies.

AsiaSat GM Engineering Barry Turner explained that "the severity of the interference from Broadband Wireless Access technology is now well understood, and in the countries where broadband wireless trials have been licensed, the ‘jamming‘ of satellite signals has blacked out numerous customers. It is telling that the ITU and BWA industry bodies already agree on the effects, now leaving each national administration to choose between killing satellite C-band or putting BWA in a different frequency band."

That‘s why Asia Pacific satellite industry leaders have been calling on governments to take a considered approach in the allocation of existing satellite services. Processes to consider such allocations are under way in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines, among others.

The provision of "open skies" with unrestricted access for satellite services to domestic markets was also discussed at the forum. Once again, Casbaa delegates were united in a call for governments to allow the industry to realize the full opportunity of such policies.

"Satellite has great potential to bridge the digital divide," said, Inmarsat regional director Asia Pacific Ken Cheong. "As a worldwide provider, the more markets we can reach, the more we can bring down pricing and increase affordability. We can support rural and social development programs across Asia and do so in an affordable way."

Nevertheless, while the operating environment in the region has been improving, the further adoption of best practices -- both technical and regulatory -- and the introduction of new satellite investment are essential factors for enhancing industry growth.

"The good news is that we are making progress and there have been substantial positive steps in the right direction. As we have more successes, we can provide better and cheaper services throughout Asia," said Asia Broadcast Satellite president Gregg Daffner.

The 180 decision-making delegates in Singapore also heard that the demand of mobile TV, Direct to Home (DTH) and HDTV services will be key drivers for future growth.

Emerging mobile TV services are sweeping the world with the Asia Pacific market benefiting from that development. TU Media president and CEO of South Korea Dr. Young-Kil Suh delivered a keynote address on the growth of Mobile TV in his home market, where TU Media serves 1.1 million consumers via handheld TV devices. "Customers expect the same quality and coverage of our service as they get with voice mobile. Indoor is as important as outdoor," he said.

Asia is also set to be the single most important DTH market in the world. For example, India‘s DTH market has grown to 5 million subscribers in just over two years and the rest of Asia wants to follow.

Mass audiences in Asia are also slowly gearing up for High Definition TV(HDTV) services following the US, where 24 of the 48 million HDTV sets in the US are effectively connected to HD content. HDTV has become a key demand driver for TV audiences the world over and 100 per cent conversion is just a matter of time, delegates were told.

"Today‘s gathering highlights the need for a technically enlightened, lightly regulated environment for our industry, which has made billions of dollars in long term investment in equipment and services," said Intelsat‘s regional VP, Asia Pacific and Casbaa Satellite Industry Committee chairman David Ball.

"Open Skies, technologically neutral and open markets are essential for the growth of the media and telecommunication sector - and it will continue now in Asia - if our regulator colleagues can grasp the nettle of technological change," said Casbaa‘s Twiston Davies.

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