Mu Space Corp, a Thai satellite and space tech startup, has been granted the use of satellite spectrum at 50.5 degrees East orbital position to provide services for six countries in Asean.
The spectrum was previously operated by New Skies Satellites (NSS), a wholly owned Dutch affiliate of SES, a leading satellite operator.
The company wants to launch commercial satellite broadband as well as mobile and broadcasting solutions for governments, telecom companies and businesses outside Thailand by the end of this year.
The six countries on its business road map this year comprise Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.
James Yenbamroong, chief executive and founder of mu Space, said the move is a significant step for it to expand its satellite-based business outside Thailand.
In October last year, mu Space partnered with SES to deliver satellite-based broadband and mobile services to rural communities in Thailand. Under the agreement, mu Space would contract satellite capacity on SES-8 and SES-12 to provide satellite-based services via the 95 degrees East orbital slot in space.
Mr James said mu Space leases the satellite spectrum from SES to provide service on the 50.5 degrees East orbital slot for 15 years, with an option to extend for another 15 years.
"The satellite spectrum capacity will enhance mu Space's existing capacity for long-term business," he said.
mu Space is negotiating with several partners in the six countries to provide services, with each prospective partner holding landing rights for satellite downlink.
The company plans to launch its own satellite in 2020 using Blue Origin's New Glenn space vehicle, the satellite designed for a high throughput and low latency geosynchronous earth orbit satellite.
Mr James said when mu Space's own satellite is sent into space, it will replace the position that is operated by NSS.
Founded in June last year, mu Space is running three businesses: satellites, digital parks, and space tourism.
He said details of the operations contract for the SES-8 and SES-12 satellites is different from those for NSS-5.
The contract for satellite capacity on SES-8 and SES-12 is for five years, with the option to extend for another five years, while the satellite capacity on the NSS-5 contract has 15 years, with option to extend for another 15 years.
"The contract for satellite capacity on NSS-5 is more flexible and could generate benefits for mu Space's long-term road map," he said.
Mr James said the consumer base for broadband and mobile services in Asean is growing.
The market is moving towards digital applications, 5G and Internet of Things (IoT), for which satellite could play a key role by widening service coverage, he said.
The World Bank puts the total population of Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand at 269 million.
Of that figure, 42% or 113 million are internet users. Mobile subscription is at 359 million, far exceeding the combined population of the six countries.
Thailand has registered 120 million mobile subscribers, a figure that is nearly double the country's 69 million population.
Although mobile subscription is high, internet penetration is not increasing at a fast pace, with only 48% or about 33 million Thais having access to the internet.
To support the demand, Mr James said mu Space is working on innovative satellite services and taking the initiative to develop IoT products for end users.