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Year in Review 2015: Part IX

Friday, December 04, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Randall Barney
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Year in Review 2015: Part IX
Thaicom • Thuraya • VeriSat • Vimond Media Solutions • W.B. Walton Enterprises



By Nile Suwansiri, Chief Marketing Officer

As the satellite industry continues to evolve—and service differentiation becomes all the more important—Thaicom is pleased that 2015 has marked another successful year for the company. 

Staying true to our pioneering history and mission to serve the people in our country, the past year has seen the launch of innovative services, strong financial results, recognition for our charity work and the celebration of a very special anniversary. As we enter the next phase in our company’s history—and celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Thaicom—we will continue our success story and footprint expansion, including the launch of our new satellite THAICOM 8.

Record Financial Growth 
Global demand for transponder capacity continues to rise rapidly in the broadcast and broadband industries. As a result, the company’s satellite transponder services expanded into new markets, such as India, leading to an increase in transponder usage on THAICOM 7. This also contributed to the 2015 financial results, which reinforced our position as a leading operator. For the first nine months of 2015, a consolidated normalized net profit of 1.652 billion baht (46 million USD) was posted, a year-on-year increase of 301 million baht (8.4 million USD), or 22.3 percent, from 1.351 billion baht (37.7 million USD) during the first nine months of 2014. The operating profit achieved mainly came from Thaicom’s satellite, Internet services and media businesses, as well as efficient selling and administrative expense control. Also contributing to these results were the teleport services and sales of satellite equipment to broadcasting satellite operators.

The THAICOM 7 satellite is now 100 percent booked, thanks to an order from Hinduja Group’s Grant Investrade Ltd. Thaicom 5 is at 100 percent capacity, while Thaicom 6 is at 68 percent capacity. Thanks to the good utilization rate of these satellites, the company is considering further additions to the existing fleet to expand The Asia Pacific (APACX) footprint. 

Broadband + Broadcast Convergence
This year’s CommunicAsia show was particularly exciting for Thaicom due to the launch of our first 2nd Screen deployment in Thailand. The service—a joint venture with Kantana Group and Intouch Holdings—was first used to air Gossip Girl on one of Thailand’s biggest broadcasters: the Channel 3 Television Network. This service responded to the growing trend of smartphone owners using mobile devices while watching television and actually encourages them to do so. The 2nd screen platform enhances users’ viewing experience by giving them access to additional content on a mobile device while watching the show on television. Additional content includes on-demand video and additional character, actor and plot line information, as well as games, quizzes, shopping and social networking. The application is part of Thaicom’s Broadband and Broadcast convergence platform, which is part of our move toward becoming an end-to-end service provider.

World’s 1st HTS turns 10—Happy Birthday, IPSTAR! 
Embracing and setting current trends has long been a part of Thaicom’s pioneering history. This was underlined this year as the tenth anniversary of IPSTAR—the world’s first High Throughput Satellite (HTS)—was celebrated. Since 2005, IPSTAR has been APAC’s leading broadband satellite platform and service, delivering high-speed, two-way broadband communication over an IP platform.  IPSTAR provides coverage over most of APAC via multiple narrowly focused spot beams. As is typical of HTS, IPSTAR maximizes available frequency for transmission, increasing bandwidth by a factor of twenty when compared to traditional Ku-band satellites. The satellite’s launch kick-started a massive shift in the satellite industry and satellites’ capabilities, enabling new services, such as the provision of high-speed broadband to previously underserved and unserved areas. With HTS having now proven its staying power and becoming more relevant than ever, we are proud to have played such a big part in our industry’s history. 

Serving + Improving Communities 
These aforementioned milestones and financial results are proud moments for the whole team at Thaicom. Perhaps the proudest moment was being presented with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award at the Via Satellite Excellence Awards. As well as recognizing the firm’s commitment to sustainable development, the accolade also awarded Thaicom’s commitment to serving and improving the surrounding communities. Through our “Thai Kids, Thaicom” initiative, for example, Thaicom was the first operator to provide distance learning via satellite in Southeast Asia, creating opportunities for underprivileged children and people in remote parts of Thailand. Today, the project plays an important part in the education of about 600,000 school children by donating and installing satellite dishes and receivers to 3,000 schools across the country.

Thaicom is also committed to responding to natural disasters. The devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake on April 25, which hit Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and surrounding areas, claimed thousands of lives and destroyed the area’s telecommunications infrastructure, further hindering relief efforts. The company deployed a satellite communications network and an engineering team to the affected areas. During crises such as these, satellite is often the only system available for vital communications and we will continue to provide what services we can in such situations.

The Next Phase  
Moving into 2016, Thaicom will encounter new challenges, with one of the biggest being to ensure capacity as UHD grows in popularity. This will inevitably mean more demand for broadcast satellites, with HD requiring 3x more bandwidth than SD and UHD 4x  more than HD. Fortunately, the company is well prepared for such eventualities with the next launch scheduled for 2016. THAICOM 8 will serve customers’ needs for increased Ku-band capacity and strengthen the video neighborhood at 78.5 degrees East.  The satellite—manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corporation and launched by SpaceX—will have 24 Ku-band transponders covering Thailand, South Asia and Africa. 

Next year will also bring exciting announcements, with additional Thaicom satellites already in the pipeline.


By Bilal El Hamoui, Chief Commercial Officer

Even if 2015 has been a difficult year for the industry as a whole, Thuraya had many positive experiences this past business year. 

The company debuted a number of groundbreaking products, services and platforms in line with our long-term ambition to offer something really different at great value. Launched directly at the end of 2014, XT-LITE became the world’s most rapidly adopted satellite phone—sales rocketed through 2015, with minutes of use at 10 times the levels of the firm’s previous flagship product, the XT—there’s real demand out there.

XT-PRO was launched, the world’s most advanced satellite phone… consistent and reliable, rugged and robust. The unit resists dust and jet water and it is shock proof with an uninterrupted signal. Call notifications can be received even when The XT-PRO is in your pocket with your antenna stowed. 

SatSleeve brought the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept to the satellite market in 2013. This remains the simplest, fastest way to own a satellite smartphone. With SatSleeve+, there’s even better sound quality routed through the smartphone and a universal adapter allows users to switch between various iOS and Android smartphone models. 

SatSleeve Hotspot is a portable satellite WiFi hotspot that lets users make calls, send emails and check apps indoors, with the hotspot placed outside or at a window. Users can select a Thuraya SIM for coverage in 160 countries, or a GSM SIM card from more than 360 Thuraya roaming partners worldwide. A distribution deal with UK-based global online retailer, Expansys, was announced for the new SatSleeve products, which give retailers an exciting product to complement their smartphone offerings.

Thuraya and Airtel Africa announced the launch of the company’s mobile satellite products and services, spanning 12 countries in Africa that include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Airtel Africa’s customers now have access to voice communication, messaging, social media apps and broadband Internet through Thuraya’s satellite solutions. Thuraya’s recent agreement with Airtel Ghana to deliver 100 percent connectivity through mobile satellite and terrestrial coverage is a great example of how this partnership has progressed. Additionally, Airtel Ghana now offers a bouquet of Thuraya services and products under communication, connectivity and collaborative solutions.  

The maritime sector is important for us—the innovative Thuraya Calling Card is a dynamic market solution that reinforces value-for-money, convenience and versatility, for individual users and business managers. An entire crew can use their individual Calling Cards to make personal calls from a single phone, with business and personal calls separated. Budgets can be monitored effectively, as usage is charged to the Calling Card and not to a telephone account. A 75 MB maritime broadband bundle offers flexibility and value-for-money and is built to fit people’s individual needs.  

There are three broadband bundles that range from SIM-only, to Orion IP and SF2500 hardware bundles—available on both 12- and 24-month contracts. These innovative packages are built for end-users at a time when the maritime communications landscape is experiencing rapid change, and when the need for quality data connectivity at less expensive rates is of vital importance.

When Thuraya’s CEO, Samer Halawi, was named Satellite Executive of the Year at this year’s Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Awards in Seoul, South Korea, the award showed that Thuraya’s success is being recognized.

Thuraya also realizes how important it is to help relief workers and first responders to connect and coordinate efforts during emergencies. That’s why the firm donated satellite phones to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the start of the year, as part of our commitment to help strengthen response and recovery mechanisms. More recently, Thuraya signed a Crisis Connectivity Charter in Geneva under the umbrella of the EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) and the Global VSAT Forum (GVF). This Charter takes us one step further toward working with governments and NGOs to deliver secure, reliable, and easily deployable, user-friendly solutions in the event of any disaster. 

DigiMed was launched, a telemedicine solution that assists teams working in remote areas. This kit allows crucial, face-to-face consultations between patients and doctors through ‘real-time’ teleconferencing that is enabled by Thuraya’s portfolio of broadband terminals and is ideal for workers in the Relief, Marine and Enterprise sectors. 

Thuraya has also created a new Developer Program that expands on the company’s ecosystem plan and which generates new opportunities for partners. Easy access to hardware and software development platforms is provided as well as the required documentation and support. The program also aims to shorten the development cycle for Thuraya’s partners to get products to market faster, with an emphasis on creating more affordable and easy to use end-user products.

Thuraya is also developing expansionary plans to increase the scope of the business. Geographical reach was expanded by launching Starlight, a new gateway in Cyprus, earlier this year, with the quasi-global M2M network to launch with ViaSat later this year. Concept work on our next generation planning is nearing completion, as well, and this will bring opportunities through new coverage and capabilities, efficiencies and greater scale. 

As we embark on 2016, Thuraya looks forward to making several new and exciting announcements as the company continues to make its mark in the New Year with new products in new segments, and with new partners.


By Petter Amundsen, Chief Executive Officer

The last year has witnessed VeriSat effectively delving into the unknown territory of satellite interference.

The company has been active in the satellite industry for a number of years, providing leading VSAT technology test products. However, until an approach by SES last year to help solve VSAT interference, we were blissfully unaware of the scale of VSAT interference as a problem for operators: VSAT terminals cause significant interference, and the TDMA nature requires time-consuming trouble-shooting procedures. Determining the terminal that is causing the interference is sometimes impossible to detect.

VeriSat’s response to the challenge was to apply the firm’s VSAT technical competencies and know-how to create a unique new solution—SatGuard. SatGuard solves the problem in an automatic way by identifying the source of interference by determining the VSAT ID in just a matter of minutes. When the VSAT ID is known, the hub station can easily close down the interfering terminal. SatGuard is, therefore, a revolution for combating and managing VSAT interference.

Since the proof-of-concept was demonstrated to SES and the industry a year ago, the company has been developing SatGuard to become a
user-friendly application that supports a wide range of VSAT technologies. 

The Background
VSAT interference is widely reported as the most challenging and

time-consuming issue to solve, accounting for a significant amount of interference (approximately 40 percent of all instances) and responsible for 50 percent of downtime. This is mainly due to the very nature of the VSAT environment, where VSAT terminals share the same frequency in TDMA mode. The increased number of  mobile VSATs, as well as the use of mainly proprietary technologies and protocols, additionally complicates the problem. 

For some time, satellite operators have been desperately seeking for a tool to combat VSAT interference in a more efficient and automated way. With the introduction of SatGuard, identifying the source of interference by the VSAT terminal ID, adjacent satellite interference (ASI) and cross-polar interference (XPOL) caused by VSAT terminals, can now be resolved in matter of minutes. Previously, resolving the source of VSAT interference could have taken days, weeks, or sometimes even months.

SatGuard will also allow operators to actively monitor VSAT terminal interference levels on a regular basis. This means problems can be detected as they occur. VSAT interference then becomes manageable by
real-time monitoring in the same way continuous carriers are monitored. 

Spreading The Message
Following the official launch last year, and VeriSat’s participation in numerous industry events that included Satellite 2015 in Washington DC and CommunicAsia in Singapore, the company has spoken to many satellite operators about what SatGuard is able to accomplish—the feedback and interest from the industry is extremely positive.

Many operators are seeing a real tangible benefit from this system. SatGuard has already been deployed at SES and Eutelsat and successful trials are ongoing with several other global operators. SatGuard can determine interference levels as low as -10 dB SNR with certainty, corresponding to a level where the interference is no longer an operational problem. 

Improving SatGuard 
When the company first launched the proof-of-concept for SatGuard a year ago, the technology was revolutionary and immediately made a big difference for SES in combating VSAT interference. Cases which had been unresolved for a long time could now be solved in a matter of minutes. However, VeriSat would not be doing the job properly if we were to simply leave SatGuard at that juncture. 

SatGuard was initially launched with support for DVB-RCS and Newtec Sat3Play. The past year, the company has been developing support for other major VSAT technologies that include Hughes Network Systems IPoS, Gilat SkyEdge, ViaSat, and iDirect, as well as improving the user-friendliness of SatGuard. Verisat has recently launched SatGuard 2.0, which has been deployed successfully at SES and Eutelsat and trials are underway at additional operator locations.

The Coming Months
In the coming months, VeriSat expects to roll-out SatGuard solutions to several interested satellite operators. The company is working on extending SatGuard to support DVB-RCS2 as well as other major VSAT technologies, and additional news regarding these efforts will be reported shortly.

Vimond Media Solutions 

By Helge Høibraaten, Chief Executive Officer

There’s no doubt that the way today’s audiences consume media services is changing dramatically, and if broadcasters and other media providers intend to stay in the game beyond the next decade, they need to be making a strong connection now with the mobile generation.

For most broadcasters this involves radical shifts and a willingness to strike out from the familiar territory of the one-to-many model. One of the most immediate moves they can make is to raise their online profile by making topical content quickly available to a mobile audience. For Vimond, 2015 started with a solution launch to help broadcasters do exactly just that. 

What broadcasters were lacking was a really efficient way to create clips from their live feeds and publish them online. Until recently, this has been a surprisingly, time-consuming and messy process for broadcasters, technically more complicated than might have been initially thought, and expensive if edit suites had to be used just to create clips. As a result, many broadcasters have not been able to move clips out to online audiences until the peak of interest in the event has passed. To remain in front of the online audience—especially with news and sports—get that content out to them with the minimum of delay is quite important. By helping them to do this, the Vimond Highlights solution that was launched at NAB meets an important and urgent goal for broadcasters targeting young, mobile audiences. 

One of the most exciting aspects of being a manufacturer in the digital media services sector is the sheer amount of innovation the company gets involved in with clients. Several large scale client projects came to fruition during 2015, and each of these in its way offers a radical departure from convention. Like most ground-breaking projects, these have been in gestation for some time, but it’s clear that the rate of innovation is increasing as the media landscape changes dramatically.

Among the initiatives that have been re-shaping the media industry this year, the launch of a completely new concept in personalized news for connected viewers shows how inventiveness is vital in the fight for audience share. Offered by the one of world’s most prestigious and ubiquitous news agencies, this service is the first foray into offering its news coverage direct to the consumer, in a departure from its core model of news supply to other broadcasters and media outlets. To make this entry into the market a success, the agency wisely chose to offer a service designed from the ground up for the connected audience consuming news on mobile devices, and built in a unique customization capability allowing subscribers to receive their own preferred mix of news content.

In Asia, piracy is woven into the way people consume media—media organizations have to work diligently to make an impact against this background. The launch of iflix, a big new regional player with a multilingual premium TV service and a pricing model designed for wide appeal, was the culmination of another big collaborative project for Vimond. In this case, Vimond technology is being used to power individualized services Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, with a potential market of half a billion people. The company has also established a joint development center with iflix in Kuala Lumpur, to explore and create further innovation for consumers who watch television in a mobile-first environment.

In the USA, the market is quite different, but the impetus to find and develop new audiences is no less a priority. In another pioneering move, one of the country’s major cable enterprises has launched an online media service with a new model for packaging content and serving multiplatform audiences. The pressure on broadcasters to get to market with a good offering in this space is intense, but it’s not a trivial task to develop these services. Vimond’s involvement with this project stretched over three years and inevitably required the adaptation of the firm’s technology to suit the workflow and culture of a large, established broadcaster, all the while providing the key benefits of flexibility, security, confidentiality, and efficiency in managing and distributing the volumes of content the service will feature.

What drives all this change is the alarming decline in audiences for conventional television. When research studies regularly show figures such as a drop in linear TV consumption among males in the 18-24 age group of 50 percent since 2002, and a staggering 25 percent over a 12 month period in the last couple of years, broadcasters have to react fast. 

After years of intensive social media use, most people who have yet to reach middle age are more interested in social media than conventional television, and the TV industry has given them few opportunities to have a social experience when consuming media content, especially when the mode of consumption is VoD (Video on Demand). The second screen phenomenon is still viewed askance by some established broadcasters, who address the second screen primarily as a way of luring the viewer back to the first screen. The research shows that younger audiences are using their mobile devices while watching TV, but they are using them for activities that are completely unrelated to the TV—mostly, to stay in the loop of their social media activity, which is a crucial part of their lives.

To bridge the gap, and to create the same kind of experience of being in a social group while watching TV and being able to carry on a conversation with other viewers, during 3015 Vimond has been testing a social TV solution. This solution enables viewers of VOD content on mobile devices to discuss content asynchronously with other viewers and experience this conversation as if it were a live discussion with all the contributors watching simultaneously. Viewers value this sense of shared experience, and if television is to have a secure future with the connected audience, Vimond believes broadcasters and other media service providers must build a social TV experience into their offerings. While in 2015 our solutions are being tested with trial audiences, such is only the beginning. In 2016 and beyond, Vimond expects the social TV experience to become one of the most important areas of development for the industry as it seeks to stay in touch with an audience that is quite different from the one that has sustained it to this point in time.

W.B. Walton Enterprises 

By Ray Powers, Vice President, Sales and Marketing

W.B. Walton Enterprises (also known as Walton De-Ice) is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of satellite earth station antenna (ESA) weather protection solutions that prevent the accumulation of snow and ice on satellite Earth station antennas.

The company’s technology and products play a key role in helping to protect critical broadcast, cable, DTH television, as well as data, voice, and Internet networks against outages and downtime due to snow, ice, and rain.In 2015, the fim celebrated 35 Years in the industry, as the Earth station antenna weather protection system innovator, with another leadership milestone: nearly 20,000 Earth station weather protection systems delivered for satellite networks across the globe.

Our unique hot air enclosures (Plenum) design mounts behind antennas from 3.2 to 32 meters, providing the most economical, reliable systems on the market.  Its uniform surface heating minimizes distortion losses, unlike electric pad or heat tape anti-ice systems. Since 1979, Walton has delivered more than 4,000 of its original hot-air Plenum De-Ice systems used for antennas from 3.2 to 32 meters in diameter, as well as thousands of control systems.  

For VSAT and smaller Earth station antennas from 0.6 to 6.3 meters in diameter, Walton De-Ice has shipped over 14,500 of its Snow Shield and Ice Quake antenna cover systems.  Walton De-Ice’s Snow Shield antenna cover uses architectural fabric that is virtually invisible to RF for antennas from 0.6 to 6.3 meters in size. Snow Shield covers can be passive, or actively heated using electric or gas heaters. Walton De-Ice’s Ice Quake enhances the performance of the Snow Shield antenna cover by vibrating the fabric cover, preventing snow and ice accumulation that degrade signals. By eliminating the need for high power conduit, trenching, and electrical switch gears, this also saves costs compared to conventional electrically heated anti-ice systems. With this patented solution, only Walton De-Ice offers the ability to add vibration to a satellite dish cover to prevent ice and snow buildup.

Covering Up With WaltonOur products help protect round-the-clock program signals serving more than 95 million TV homes in North America alone, including uplinks and downlinks from the DBS operators, top cable systems, U.S. broadcast networks, and a “who’s who” of top global TV programmers.  In 2015, we saw numerous purchases of our complete antenna De-Icing systems by major global TV networks and satellite players, and top cable Multiple System Owners (MSOs). This past Quarter, the debut of an energy-saving Snow Shield and Ice Quake at the Society of Cable Television Engineers (SCTE) annual technology expo generated more excitement and interest from cable TV engineers in North America and from around the world.  Cable TV satellite downlink head ends can achieve up to 100-fold energy savings with Walton’s Ice Quake compared to conventional anti-ice solutions. Head Ends can achieve up to 20X less data loss using Walton products.

Benefitslike these help explain why, this year, for example, America’s largest cable system operator, COMCAST, has added 64 new Walton Snow Shield Covers, both Passive, Heated (Electric or Gas forced air) and with the Ice Quake De-Icing System to protect its antennas across the continental U.S.  

Automatic de-icing, tied into Monitor & Control systems make operation more efficientthan ever, saving management and labor overhead for our customers.

Walton’s next-evolution of CE-certifieddual hot surface igniter Gas Heating Units have proven to be extremely reliable since their introduction two years ago and continued rollout in 2015. Customers have been enjoying great success with these upgrades to their Walton De-Ice Plenum, Snow Shield, and Ice Quake systems. In the past 12 months alone, customers have upgraded their De-Icing systems across North America with over 190 of our next-gen Heating Units. NBC Universal, Starz, and many other leading satellite operator and teleport facilities are among the numerous broadcast and cable operators who have upgraded their Walton De-Ice systems recently by swapping in our new dual surface igniter heaters to replace older pilot igniter models.

De-Icing Ka-Band: A New Ballgame
In the last two years, roughly 75 percent of new Walton De-Ice Plenum systems have been installed on Ka-band Earth station antennas. With Ka-band, the antenna de-icing system you select is even more critical, and the alignment of the reflectorand back structure is more important then ever before.  Walton’s hot air de-icing ensures uniform heat distribution, unlike anti-ice systems on the market that employ antiquated heat-pad approaches. Walton’s solution minimizes the chances of reflectordistortion, which can cause signal problems cause by thermal expansion and contraction. In 2016, we look forward to helping Ka-band Earth station antenna builders win with antenna de-icing at Ka-band.

More In Stock
In 2015, the company announced the expansion of the Preferred Walton De-Ice Distributors network for Snow Shield and Ice Quake Products to more leading satellite earth station integrators, making our Snow Shield and Ice Quake products available via Capella Telecommunications, Satcom Resources, Satellite Engineering Group (SEG), and Viking Satcom. These satellite ground system integrators can now help their customer achieve up to 100-fold energy savings and 20X less data loss with Walton’s Ice Quake compared to conventional anti-ice solutions.

Our Mission Has Not Changed
Walton De-Ice is committed to providing products of the best quality backed by superior customer service and support. With the notable exception of Mayan Calendar followers, I have yet to meet an industry colleague who expects the negative effects of snow and ice on Earth station antenna performance to go away, and that goes for C-, Ku-, and Ka-band. The goal of getting more performance from satellite networks will continue to be paramount for us in 2016 and beyond.

Even as industry innovations such as HTS constellations and the exploitation of new spectrum like Ka-Band, and non-GEO and mobility services over land, sea, and air create new applications, and markets, the need to maximize antenna and signal quality and uptime will continue to be crucial.

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