ProtoStar amps up DTH space with satellite launch

Asia's growing DTH market has a new player in orbit with the launch of Bermuda-based ProtoStar's first DTH satellite on Monday.

Built by Space Systems/Loral on its 1300 platform and launched by Arianespace, ProtoStar I is to be positioned at 98.5 degrees East to provide DTH television and broadband internet service to South and Southeast Asia.

The satellite carries a payload of 38 C-band transponders with coverage ranging from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, as well as 22 Ku-band transponders, some of which are aimed at the Indian sub-continent, with the remainder serving SEA.

ProtoStar president and CEO Philip Father said ProtoStar I is the first in a fleet of satellites aimed at supporting in-country partners in the Asia Pacific region who will offer subscribers satellite television packages with more than 150 channels of digital-quality video, audio, and pay-per-view programming, as well as broadband internet access.

Father also said the next two satellites in the fleet are already in the pipeline. In fact, ProtoStar II - set to launch early next year on a International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket - has already pre-booked a 'significant portion of capacity', he said in a statement.

Likewise, ProtoStar I already has three customers onboard: India's Agrani Satellite Services, PlanetSky of Cyprus, and SingTel, who also has a deal with ProtoStar to provide telemetry, tracking and control services for ProtoStar I.

ProtoStar's ambitions reflect the growing optimism over Asia's DTH market as technology barriers come down and lower subscriber acquisition costs enable players to target narrower audience segments, among other factors.

According to a new report released last week from satellite analyst firm NSR, DTH is finding particularly ripe opportunities in emerging markets like India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, where GDP growth is on the rise and the only real pay-TV competition is the cable TV.

NSR reckons that in the ten emerging DTH markets covered in the report (which also include non-Asian markets like Brazil, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Turkey), DTH's market share will grow from 13% of pay-TV subscribers this year to 26% by 2015.

More interestingly, NSR adds that IPTV is likely to do little damage in such markets, as IPTV's penetration depends heavily on broadband penetration, and is far more expensive in terms of rollouts and customer acquisition.