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Qatar’s Es’hailSat Aims To Be Al Jazeera of Satellite Operators
PARIS — The Qatar Satellite Co., Es’hailSat, is planning a fleet of six telecommunications satellites in the next decade as the nation seeks to muscle in on the growing market for satellite bandwidth in the Middle East and North Africa, Es’hailSat officials said.
The first satellite, Es’hail 1, is being built in partnership with Paris-based Eutelsat and is scheduled for launch this summer. Manufactured by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., Es’hail 1 is a 6,000-kilogram-class satellite carrying 24 Ku- and the equivalent of 14 Ka-band transponders.
Es’hail 1, which Eutelsat calls Eutelsat 25B, will be operated at 25.5 degrees east, just half a degree away from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat’s core satellite neighborhood. Eutelsat, Arabsat, Qatar and Arabsat’s Iranian government customer have been at odds for two years on who has rights to the Ku-band frequencies at 25.5-26 degrees east.
The frequency conflict with Arabsat and Iran has not slowed development of Es’hail 1, nor dimmed Es’hailSat’s ambitions to become, in the satellite operations world, what Qatar-based Al Jazeera is in the satellite television world.
“Our mission is to become a world-class satellite operator and center of excellence in the region,” Es’hailSat said in a written response to SpaceNews inquiries ahead of the Cabsat broadcasting and satellite show scheduled March 12-14 at the Dubai World Trade Center.
“With Es’hail 1 and our future satellites, we can provide high-quality, independent satellite services to customers throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).”
Es’hailSat has set its sights on the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in 2022, which Qatar is hosting, as the time for the company to have built sufficient satellite infrastructure to be a force in the Middle East. The biggest regional player now is Arabsat, whose global ambitions recently were highlighted by Arabsat’s purchase of Greece’s HellasSat satellite operator.
“The MENA region is experiencing growing demand for a range of satellite communication services, particularly broadcasting and Internet services,” Es’hailSat said. “There are a number of satellite operators in the region, and some competition is always good for the market.”
Es’hailSat, which was created in 2010, sent four engineers to Space Systems/Loral for a two-year training program to prepare the company for the operation of Es’hail 1 and the management of future satellites. Es’hailSat’s board of directors is scheduled to review plans for an Es’hail 2 at a meeting in March, the company said.
Es’hailSat said that while Eutelsat and Arabsat already serve several million homes from the 25.5-26 degrees east neighborhood, the region still lacks capacity for high-definition television.