High-throughput satellites (HTS) may be the future of the satellite business, but that future won’t necessarily include Ka-band - at least not in Asia-Pacific.
Thomas Choi, co-founder and CEO of satellite operator ABS, says that his company plans to focus more on broadband, with three new satellites focused on key markets such as rural areas with little or no capacity.
But ABS will focus on Ku-band rather than Ka-band because Ka-band simply can’t handle problems with rain-fade.
“Ka-band doesn’t make sense because it’s too rainy in the areas where they need that capacity the most,” he says.
Choi points to O3b Networks as an example. “O3b is a resilient Ka-band system, but people are still suffering outages, and they don’t like it. Overall, I think Ka-band is a failure and the companies building it are going to suffer.”
Choi also dismisses more glowing analyst forecasts on growth of Ka-band in the next five years. “Let’s see where they are in three or four years,” he shrugs. “Every customer I talk to hates Ka-band, they’re miserable and they can’t wait to give it up.”
Huang Baozhong, EVP for Hong Kong-based APT Satellite, agrees that Ka-band has limited appeal for Asian customers - at least for now.
“I’ve chatted with customers and many of them say that Ka-band, or even Ku-band, is not sufficient,” Huang says. “Maybe one day when the technology improves, it will be.”
Choi of ABS also says that even as the satellite sector chases the Next Big Thing, it should not lose sight of its core business of video distribution.
“I think we’re blinded by video constellations, HTS and Ka-Band, and we’re not focused enough on video distribution, which is our core strength,” he says. “We’re really good at it and the business is still growing.”
Choi points to ABS’ success in serving the European video distribution market, and adds that his company’s next three satellites are designed specifically for video distribution.
Huang of APT Satellite agrees. “Our data services business is growing, and in the future data will be the more important business. But it’s not progressing as well as expected, so in the near term we need to get as much video business as possible.”
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