Thaicom Plc, the country's sole satellite service provider, is accelerating plans to launch Thaicom 8 by early 2016 to keep up with the exponential growth of the full digital industry.
Suphajee: Thaicom expects good growth
The planned 440-transponder broadband satellite, also known as iPSTAR 2, will cost about US$200 million and be positioned in the orbital slot at 119.5 degrees, said chief executive Suphajee Suthumpun.
"Our feasibility plan involving satellite categories and investment options for iPSTAR 2 will be completed by June, with the planned launch of the new satellite in the next three years," she said.
Ms Suphajee said the accelerated move is to accommodate the greater use of iPSTAR 1, which has reached half of its capacity after the company signed a contract with China Telecom's satellite unit.
Thaicom last week reached a framework agreement with China Telecom Satellite and Synertone Communication Corporation to proceed with the sale of iPSTAR bandwidth in China.
The use of iPSTAR in China alone accounts for 24% of its capacity.
The iPSTAR 2 satellite is also aimed at serving an anticipated exponential increase in local broadband bandwidth consumption, Ms Suphajee said.
Thaicom is also moving ahead with its plan to build two more satellites.
It expects to seal a deal to sell iPSTAR bandwidth in India in March, accounting for 10% of its capacity.
"To further boost iPSTAR utilisation, we are moving to expand into Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar this year," she said, adding that it is focusing on corporate and enterprise users.
Thaicom is also preparing to launch its Thaicom 6 telecommunications satellite, worth $160 million, by the middle of this year.
"The commercial satellite has been already booked up to 40% of its capacity, reaching its utilisation goal or the breakeven point," Ms Suphajee said.
The company also plans to launch broadcast satellite Thaicom 9, to be positioned at 50.5 degrees east, to reserve the country's orbital slot, which expired last November. It plans to expand its footprint in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Thaicom attained profitability in the final quarter of 2011 after facing losses for several years. Thaicom's concession is due to expire in 2021. The company has been in operation for 22 years.
Thaicom operates only two satellites _ Thaicom 4 (iPSTAR) and Thaicom 5. Thaicom 4, 5 and 6 are under concessions from the Information and Communication Technology Ministry.
Ms Suphajee said Thailand's telecom and broadcast revolutions are being driven towards a paradigm shift to a "technology convergence" era, which means broadband and broadcast can now support all forms of communications on different networks.
She said Thaicom expects to see healthy growth this year in tandem with positive growth in the country's broadband demand, thanks to the government's policy of free public WiFi and the One Tablet per Child scheme.
Up to 60% of revenue will come from satellite services this year.
The company has sold its loss-making mobile unit in Cambodia.
About the author
Writer: Srisamorn Phoosuphanusorn & Komsan Tortermvasana