Open Skies theme dominates Casbaa’s satellite forum

MUMBAI: The 2006 Casbaa Satellite Industry Forum which was held a few days ago featured calls for governments to lower regulatory barriers to the provision of cross-border satellite services or face the prospect of international satellite providers re-directing new capacity away from Asia.

Patience has reached a 'critical point' over regulatory stalemates in key markets such as China and India, is what more than 200 delegates heard at the Casbaa Forum in Singapore.

The warnings came at a time when advances in digital technologies are providing multiple new opportunities for the delivery of satellite services. “If global operators feel forced to re-target their payloads because of a lack of potential market access, it will be the end-users in the domestic markets who feel the burden through higher charges,” the delegates were told.

Korea's SK Telecom has 550,000 subscribers to its TU Media service. Similar projects are now planned for a number of Asian markets. New DTH services are being launched in India and Indonesia while IPTV broadband via satellite and HDTV opportunities have added to unprecedented demand for new satellite capacity.

And, for this potential to be realised there is a need for more competition, more open market access, Open Skies and a change of mindset by governments, delegates heard.

Asiasat deputy CEO William Wade says,“There are tremendous opportunities in Asia today and for the coming years” .

SES Global VP Market Development, South Asia Deepak Mathur noted that even though the regulatory environment is generally stable, the interpretation of the rules tends more and more to favour restricted access. “This is a really serious challenge” he says.

While telecom markets such as cellular services have unleashed widespread competition, all too often Asia Pacific satellite markets remain constrained by the concept of protecting national incumbents or flagship monopolies.

Intelsat executive VP and general council Phil Spector says, “This should be a thing of the past,” said. He added that the international satellite community is already operating in the newly competitive world. “The days of ‘build and they will come’ have long gone,” he said.

One point that was made at the forum was that a harmonised approach to reform can deliver positive outcomes. Such outcomes include greater economies of scale for operators, local user capacity at cheaper prices and help rural users gain access.

Delivering the keynote address at the Casbaa Forum, China Association of Communication Enterprises vice chairman Hao Wei Min said that satellite is an important instrument for China to provide rural connectivity as part of the government’s five-year plan. “This year some 20,000 villages will be connected via satellite and by 2007, we will have 100 per cent connectivity,” he said.

Casbaa chairman Marcel Fenez, said, “The satellite industry, and Casbaa members in particular, are benefiting hugely from the explosion of demand for video content over all kinds of networks."

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