February 7, 2005

Satellite Industry Sees Revival Hopes

BANGALORE, India (AFP) -- Digital multimedia broadcasting to hand-held electronic devices may be the hope for satellite service providers in the struggling Asia-Pacific market, an industry official said.

"The satellite industry is suffering from overcapacity and badly needs a killer application which may be digital multimedia broadcasting," said Koh Eui-Kon, president of the Asia Pacific Satellite Communications Council.

Digital multimedia broadcasting provides content over a satellite to small hand-held devices such as personal digital assistants and mobile phones.

"Now that the services are available it will open up new markets," Koh told AFP on the sidelines of an international seminar on aerospace technologies being held in India's aviation hub of Bangalore.

In January South Korea launched trial operations of the world's first satellite-based television service for mobile phone users.

The system, using technology developed by Japan's Toshiba Corp, allows mobile phone users in cars, trains or on street corners to watch high-definition digital TV programing by satellite.

Japan has already launched the service.

Koh's 100-member body is a non-profit international organisation founded by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

It promotes satellite communication in Asia and has members comprising of satellite manufacturers and launch vehicle service providers from Europe and North America.

Koh said many of the national satellite firms were losing money in Asia, which earned revenues of 10 billion dollars last year, and he expects companies to merge as a result.

"Most of the countries which have their own satellite systems are not making profit. One way is to consolidate and survive. They can even merge with foreign players or form a consortium," he said.

He said despite overcapacity of satellite transponders in the region the Asia-Pacific market was growing at a "reasonable rate" of 4.4 percent every year.

"The problem still remains though. There are too many satellite operators and regulatory barriers needs to be lowered or removed," he said.