Reserve C-band transponders for satellite cos, broadcasters: Casbaa

NEW DELHI: The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) concluded its seminar on challenges of satellite broadcasting on a highly disturbed note, saying that the allocation of extended C-Band transponders to Wimax players after asking the existing TV channels to vacate them is highly damaging to the industry and is "unfair".

Casbaa has demanded of the Indian government that extended C-band transponders must be reserved for television companies.

It has said it was extremely worried that a proposed ‘spectrum grab‘ in the current satellite bandwidth in the 3.4 GHz to 3.7 GHz range used by Indian and international satellite operators could close down satellite operations, including hundreds of TV channels in India.


Casbaa has approached various ministries as well as the sector regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, to ensure that this is not done. Trai, in fact, had recommended that Wimax and other terrestrial wireless applications should be allocated other spectrums, not the C-band spectrums.

Casbaa also insisted that the government ought to let foreign direct investment in the satellite industry, but MHA is not letting this happen due to ‘ignorance‘, which makes the department think that this would jeopardise national security.


Stating that the Indian Space Research Organisation has done an ‘amazing job‘, Casbaa officials, echoed by VSAT Services Association of India (VSAI), Global VSAT Forum (GVF) and other industry players, explained that the unimaginable growth in demand for transponder means no single organisation would be able to cater to the demand.

DP Vaidya of VSAI calculated the demand at 1,000 transponders, which means 45 satellites, and he said: "This is not a fantastic figure, it can be achieved." But the government should allow foreign players to get into the satellite industry in India, with adequate safeguards in place.

The industry representatives also demanded that the government must implement the Open Skies policy recommended by Trai, a Casbaa press statement said.

It added that international satellite operators stressed their desire to service India‘s growing market on a long-term basis. But Casbaa CEO Simon Twiston Davies emphasised that this is a sector where commitments are required. It would be unfair if investors are given a certain assurance about bandwidth today and later asked to shift, Casbaa officials asserted.

David Ball of Casbaa said that Wimax lobbies were creating problems worldwide on the C-band issue which is particularly suited to tropical areas as it is least affected by rain, unlike the Ku-band transponders, which get highly disturbed during heavy rains in the tropical areas.

Ball said that Wimax lobbies were ‘erasing us‘ from the C-band transponders, which in the Indian context would mean that the four new DTH players coming up in the country would not be able to start their business.

Ball explained that there were three regions so far as transponder usage is concerned. "Europe and Africa is the first region, but Europe does not use C-band. Africa uses C-band, because of severe weather conditions and a massive cost line in the tropical region."

The second region is the Americas, of which Latin American also has mostly tropical climate and use C-band transponders.

The last region is Asia, in which barring Japan and Korea, most countries use C-band.

Asked whether this is a major issue, Davies reiterated: "This is a profound issue. The investments that have been made in satellites have happened over 40 years and are huge. Now other players want to use that technology and we have been asked to shift."

Anjan Mitra, executive director, Casbaa (India) explained: "This will affect every operation on satellite, so this is an important policy matter."

Andrew Jordan of Loft Communications stressed that already there is a massive crunch and that would increase, adding that the loss of business for the industry can be estimated if one sees that now, a million DTH dishes are being sold annually in India, and that would be squeezed out if other players eat into the C-band transponder space.

Casbaa also issued a paper, "Indian Satellite Services and Regulatory Overview, 2007 Update, which dealt with the issued in depth

The paper held that economic growth is now being negatively affected, and this can clearly be seen in the problems facing DTH broadcasters. Four new entrants to the DTH market are being held up because of lack of capacity.

VSAT operators are experiencing extreme difficulty in securing access to Ku-band capacity, preferred for its smaller dish sizes, the paper added.

"National security issues, often cited as a reason for not introducing an Open Skies policy, are easily and effectively dealt with by requiring all uplinking to be done from within India‘s geographic borders with appropriate controls in place," the Overview has stressed.

It argues that the proposed assignment of extended C-band frequencies to BWA is going to rapidly create a crisis in C-band if implemented.

"Insat presently operates 35 transponders in lower extended C-band - which represents 28 per cent of its total in orbit C-band payload. If Insat customers are required to vacate these transponders, it will cause a huge C-band supply crunch - and there is insufficient domestic Ku-band capacity available now or planned for the future," Casbaa feels.

The current policy of filling the gaps by renting foreign transponders on a short-term basis, Ball said, is not sustainable, and will keep India at the mercy of short-term market fluctuations. Foreign operators will not dedicate capacity to the Indian market if long-term contracts are available elsewhere.

"It is extremely unlikely that the presently available non-domestic Ku-band capacity would remain available for the next five years. Indeed, there are strong indications that non-domestic operators no longer intend to provide Ku-band coverage of India due to the lack of an Open Skies policy.

"They are not prepared to make a long-term commitment to the Indian market requiring hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, on the basis of short-term contracts that turn them into residual suppliers. Increasingly, more reliable markets are available elsewhere in the region," the Overview stressed.

It concluded that policy changes are urgently needed, to protect existing C-band capacity from interference, and to allow Indian broadcasters to sign long-term contracts for non-domestic transponders.


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