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Thaicom 5 satellite successfully launched into orbit

Shin Satellite announced that its Thaicom 5 satellite was successfully launched into orbit Sunday morning.

The Ariane 5 ECA rocket, blasted off from the Spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, in South America on Saturday and successfully placed Mexico's Satmex 6 and Thailand's Thaicom 5 into preliminary orbits.

Thaicom 5 was launched into orbit at 6.09pm Saturday local time, according to the company's statement.

To be located at an orbital position of 78.5 degrees East, the 2,760-kg. Thaicom 5 will use its payload of 14-ku band and 25 C-band transponders for Direct-to-Home television and Hig Definition TV and telecommunications coverage over Thailand, Southeast Asia, along with global coverage for Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The satellite will take 10 days to achieve its final geostationary orbit at 78.5 degrees East where it will be tested prior to the commencement of commercial use.

The 2.8-tonne Thaicom 5 built by Alcatel Alenia Space will replace an earlier satellite providing telecommunications and television services throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Shinsat executive Tanathit Charoenchan said earlier that Thaicom 5 would be able to provide service 15 days after the launch, and that the first major undertaking involves moving clients who are television broadcasters from Thaicom 3 to the new platform.

Shin Satellite Plc is a satellite and telecommunications operator with customers throughout Asia, Africa Europe and Australia.

Mr. Tanthit said the company currently operates four Thaicom satellites.


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Shin Satellite On Track To Launch Thaicom 5 Mid-2006

Shin Satellite PCL said Thursday it is still on track to launch its new satellite, Thaicom 5, around the middle of this year, according to Executive Chairman Dumrong Kasemset.

Dumrong told an analysts' meeting that Alcatel SA (ALA), the producer of Thaicom 5, expects to complete construction and commence testing in April.

The new satellite, which costs around $101 million, or THB 3.94 billion, will be launched by Arianespace (ARS.YY), the same company which launched iPSTAR, the Thai company's $400 million broadband satellite, late last year.

Dumrong said the company has already paid around THB1.72 billion for the construction cost of Thaicom 5, while the rest will be paid this year.

Shin Satellite plans to use long-term loans to finance most of the project. Part of the funding will also come from a $33 million insurance claim from the temporary failure of the Thaicom 3 satellite transponders, he said.

In addition, Dumrong said, iPSTAR has started to generate substantial revenues to the company. Its backlog, the value of signed contracts, is now around $327 million.

The company is in talks to get customers in China, and India.

"It's difficult to say when we will get the deals (in India, and China) as they are pending license approval from the government," he said.


Shin seeks content for Thaicom 5 satellite

A Thai satellite company is launching a drive to secure pay television content for its Thaicom 5, which is slated for launch next year.

Company officials told the Bangkok Post Tuesday that seven of the bird's 14 KU transponders have been leased by pay-TV operator UBC.

The remaining seven are earmarked for direct broadcasting to Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. Each transponder can carry up to a dozen television stations

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Thaicom 5 getting ready

Shin Satellite announced the shipment of Thaicom 5 to Guiana Space Port in French Guiana, where it will be prepared for launch. Thaicom 5 was constructed by Alcatel Alenia Space and will be launched by Arianespace aboard an Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle.

Shin Satellite, Alcatel Alenia Space and Arianespace recently held a joint operation planning meeting and Final Mission Analysis Review (RAMF). All parties reviewed the integration plan of satellite to launch vehicle, the successful results of the final system qualification, flight trajectory of the launch vehicle and insertion of the satellite to transfer orbit.

Shin Satellite and Alcatel Alenia Space then held a pre-shipment review. Shin Satellite's engineers found the preparations to be within the parameters set for the project and approved the shipment. Upon arrival at the Space Port , the satellite will be transported to the processing hall where Alcatel Alenia Space's support team will be checking the satellite prior to final preparation and integration into the launch vehicle.

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Shin Satellite seeks content for Thaicom 5

Shin Satellite Plc plans a promotion campaign to attract more content providers for its Thaicom 5 satellite for direct broadcasting. Marketing chief Pathomphop Suwannasiri said Thaicom 5, which is scheduled to be launched in mid-2006, would have 14 KU band transponders, seven of which have already been leased by the pay-television operator UBC. Another four transponders will accommodate services in Thailand, and the remaining three will be for services in Indochina, he said.

Each transponder will be capable of carrying up to 12 television channels.

Mr Pathomphop said that the company's fourth satellite. iPSTAR, was now serving five countries _ Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Burma _ out of the 14 for which it was intended.

iPSTAR, the world's largest broadband satellite that was which was launched earlier this year, could ultimately accommodate 4-5 million terminals costing US$1,000 each, with full utilisation creating a potential for US$4-5 billion a year.

Chief financial officer Thanadit Charoenchan said that in the third quarter the company registered 641 million baht in revenue from transponder leasing from its Thaicom satellites and 231 million baht from iPSTAR service.

published on 15 november 2005

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Arianespace to launch THAICOM 5

The THAICOM 5 satellite launch contract was signed at World Satellite Business Week 2005 by Dr. Dumrong Kasemset, Executive Chairman of Shin Satellite Plc, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. Christine Lagarde, French Minister for Foreign Trade, was present at the signing.

This latest contract between Shin Satellite and Arianespace further confirms both the strategic space partnership between France and Thailand and French government support for the Thai space industry.

Coming less than four weeks after the successful launch of THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR), this contract reflects the sustained confidence of Shin Satellite, one of the major operators in the Asia-Pacific region, and is also clear recognition of Arianespace's high-quality launch service.

THAICOM 5 is slated for an Ariane 5 launch in 2006 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

It will be the fifth satellite launched by Arianespace for the privately-owned Thai operator, following THAICOM 1 in December 1993, THAICOM 2 in October 1994, THAICOM 3 in April 1997 and THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) on August 11, 2005.

Built by Alcatel Alenia Space, THAICOM 5 will weigh about 2,800 kg at launch, and will be fitted with 24 C-band and 14 Ku-band transponders. THAICOM 5 will provide telecom and television services throughout the Asia-Pacific from its orbital position at 78.5 degrees East. It will eventually replace the THAICOM 1 and 2 satellites.

Shin Satellite Public Company Limited, formerly Shinawatra Satellite, is the leading satellite communications company in Thailand. It deploys a fleet of satellites that provide an array of telecom services for Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and a large part of Europe.

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Nation TV going digital next month

Published on August 27, 2005

Nation Channel, a 24-hour news channel operated by Nation Broadcasting Co Ltd, is marking its fifth anniversary with a plan to become a digital-based TV station under the MMDS terrestrial system next month. Adisak Limprungpatanakij, president of Nation Broadcasting, said Nation Channel had been appointed by Thai Television (TTV) to change its broadcasting system from analogue to fully digital.

With digital broadcasting technology, Nation Channel will increase its number of channels from eight to 16. The move into a fully digital TV station will allow it to provide viewers with a greater variety of programmes - movies, cartoons, foreign news and documentaries - after installation of a set-top box at home to access the channels.

“We celebrate our fifth anniversary with the clear standpoint of being a 24-hour news station - the first in Thailand. Our next direction at Nation Channel is to become a regional player, relying on our strengths of English capability and the reputation of The Nation newspaper,” Adisak said.

Many exciting events are being held at Impact Arena Hall 6 to mark the fifth anniversary and the big new leap of the Nation Group.

The Nation Channel pavilion inside the hall demonstrates the access of Nation Channel content through Internet broadband, as well as other media services such as television, radio and mobile telephones in the broadband zone. An MMDS antenna clinic has been set up to give advice to viewers of the TTV channels.

Speaking on “The Changing Point of Thai Radio and Television Towards a Digital World” held yesterday at the ceremony celebrating the Nation Channel’s fifth anniversary, PM’s Office Minister Suranand Vejjajiva said local broadcasting laws and regulations were out of date and needed to be reviewed.

Suranan plans to hold talks with local stakeholders in the television industry - TV operators, content providers and NGOs - to review the legal regulations for TV media in Thailand.

Brainstorming ideas will help the government to create the new framework - involving all participants and appropriate to them all - that can cope with the changes in broadcasting technology, he said. Network providers and broadcasting operators should be in partnership to develop the “backbone” broadcasting technology and the technology superhighway to avoid any duplication of investment. They should join together to set the direction of the industry.

The story continues here

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The launch of THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) is delayed by an additional several days.

Following the completion of additional checks on the Ariane 5 launcher preparation facilities at the Spaceport in French Guiana, Arianespace has decided to carry out a careful examination of the equipment involved. As a result, a few additional days will be necessary to complete these operations, and a new launch date will be announced during the week of July 25.

The Ariane 5 Generic launcher and its THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) payload remain in a safe condition inside the Ariane 5 final assembly building at the Spaceport.

THAICOM 4 (IPSTAR) will be the largest commercial telecommunications satellite ever carried into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), with a mass at liftoff of more than 6,500 kg. (14,000 lb.).

Arianespace Expects Asian Launches To Pickup

Arianespace (ARS.YY) expects to launch three satellites in Asia this year and four next year, marking a pick up after a slump that has lasted several years, a senior official at the European satellite giant said in a recent interview.

"We didn't launch any satellites last year in Asia. But we are launching three this year and have agreed to launch another two so far next year," Richard Bowles, Asian Director for Arianespace, said.

In the early 1990s, companies lined up to have their satellites launched into orbit, with Arianespace launching around 25 per year globally. The business took double hits, however, from the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the dotcom crash of 2000. The growing use of fiber-optic cables also weighed on satellite use.

Arianespace is looking to return to its glory days of 25 launches a year and Bowles is pinning the company's hopes on consumer demand for high-definition television.

"In areas where there are no cable (links), the population will now be able to access broadband directly from satellite," he said.

Satellites allow the delivery of myriad HD channels to remote and not-so-remote areas and Bowles expects demand to grow for his company's launch services, especially with Asia tipped to lead global economic growth in the coming years.

Bowles, however, won't be pressed into saying when that demand will takeoff. "It's hard to say. That will depend on when HDTV becomes a common feature. It should be soon given the pace of economic growth, but putting a date on that is difficult," he explained.

Even without the boost from HDTV, Arianespace is seeing a pickup in business.

"The last two years have been quiet. We did 12 launches globally in 2002 but only four in 2003 and three in 2004. This year, the number will be six," Bowles said.

Bowles expects Arianespace to return to launching around 15 satellites a year in the next few years, due to Asian economic growth, led by China, and the company's new ability to launch two satellites at once, thanks to its latest launch vehicle, the Ariane 5.

"We can compete with cheaper launch vehicles by having a lower overall launch price," Bowles explained.

Arianespace charges between US$50 million to US$90 million for launching satellites, depending on weight. With a usual operating life of 10-15 years, satellites cost between US$150 million to US$500 million to make and orbit the Earth while receiving and beaming back signals for television, mobile phones and the Internet.

Arianespace's rivals are Boeing Co. (BA) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and competition is intense.

The next satellite to be launched - Shin Satellite's (SATTEL.TH) IPSTAR project in Thailand - is double the size of most models at 6.7 tons.

"Its the biggest commercial satellite we have ever launched and will be the first in Asia to be able to provide broadband Internet service directly to the home," Bowles said, adding that it will be launched on July 8.

Afterwards, Arianespace will perform a launch in Indonesia early in the second half and another in India before the end of the year.

Asia typically accounts for around 20% of Arianespace's revenue, with Europe accounting for 50% and the Americas accounting for 30%. Arianespace's revenue for 2004 was EUR657 million.

Arianespace was formed in 1980 and, after undergoing a recapitalization in 2004, is controlled by about 25 corporations, primarily aerospace and telecommunications firms. Its largest shareholder is European aerospace and defense giant EADS.

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Coming Soon: Fast Internet wherever you are.

Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) has announced that the iPSTAR-1 satellite has arrived at the Arianespace spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and is undergoing preparations for launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on July 7.

Weighing in with a launch weight of 14,341 pounds (6505 kilograms), iPSTAR-1 will be the heaviest commercial satellite ever delivered to geosynchronous orbit.

"iPSTAR-1 is one of the largest and most technologically advanced satellites ever built for a commercial customer," said C. Patrick DeWitt, president of Space Systems/Loral.

"SS/L's 1300 platform is becoming an industry standard when it comes to developing highly-powered satellites for direct-to-user applications like broadband access. We are pleased to be working with Shin on this important project and look forward to the satellite`s launch next month."

Built for Shin Satellite, of Thailand, iPSTAR-1 is designed to provide both enterprises and consumers throughout Asia, Australia and New Zealand with various levels of Internet access services, competing with cable modems and digital subscriber lines (DSL).

iPSTAR-1 has a massive total data throughput capacity of over 40 Gbps. The satellite will provide users with data speeds of up to eight Mbps on the forward link and four Mbps on the return link.

From its 119.5 degrees East longitude orbital position, iPSTAR-1 will use its seven on-board antennas to create 112 spot and regional beams in the Ku and Ka frequency bands. The satellite will generate 14 kW of electrical power throughout its planned 12-year service life.

Shin Satellite, a turnkey satellite operator, provides C- and Ku-band transponder leasing, teleport and other value-added and engineering services to users in Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia.

Shin Satellite owns and operates Thaicom 1A, located at 120 degrees East, and Thaicom 2 and 3, co-located at 78.5 degrees East.

The satellites carry a total of 49 C-band and 20 Ku-band transponders offering over 70 channels. Thaicom is the Hotbird for Indochina and India, an emerging platform of choice for transcontinental satellite television broadcasts from Europe to Australia.

The company has spent years researching and developing new technology to make Internet via satellite more efficient, thus reducing costs and improving the service to end-users.

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I scratch my back...

United Broadcasting Corp. (UBC.TH), a Thai cable television operator, said Tuesday that it has expanded its leasing contract for satellite transponders with Shin Satellite PCL (SATTEL.TH).

Under the new agreement, United Broadcasting will lease five Ku-Band 36 megahertz and two KU-Band 54 MHz transponders on Shin Satellite's planned Thaicom 5 satellite, replacing the lease of 4.25 KU-Band 36 MHz transponders currently used on Thaicom 3, the cable TV broadcaster said in a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

The new agreement will also extend the leasing period to 2018 from 2008, the statement said.

Shin Satellite is planning to build a new satellite, Thaicom 5, to expand its Ku-Band channels and satellite coverage in Thailand and neighboring countries. The new satellite is expected to be operational by mid-2006, the statement said.

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SET to launch television channel

Financiers, investors and anyone with an interest in the Thai economy and money markets will soon get a specially dedicated television channel, thanks to a new initiative by the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

Announcing the launch of the satellite-based Money Channel yesterday, Mr. Ratchaphol Laowanich from Family Know-How Co. Ltd. said that the SET had asked his company to produce Thailand's very first channel dedicated exclusively to financial and economic matters.

The channel, a joint project between the SET and Channel 5 TV, will be officially launched on 29 April to mark the SET's 30th anniversary.

Based on the concept of 'all about your money', the channel's programmes will focus on the movements of the economy and money markets.

Likening the channel to a friend able to give simple and interesting financial advice, Mr. Ratchaphol said that the information presented would be up-to-date, interesting and easy to understand.

The channel will target the general public, rather than producing heavy reports for economists.

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ESPN STAR Sports Makes Further Inroads Into Thailand and Indo-China

ESPN STAR Sports, Asia's number one sports broadcaster recently renewed multi-year syndication deals in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar with terrestrial broadcasters Channel 3, BBTV7, VTV-3, TV5, CTN and Myawaddy TV respectively.

The deals will give viewers in these countries access to some of the biggest sporting events in the world including the English Premier League, FA Cup matches, England Home Team matches, World Pool Championship, San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour and the Asian X Games among others.

In Indo-China, ESPN STAR Sports has been bringing world class sporting coverage since 2001, expanding its distribution strategy in that region, particularly in the area of syndication.

ESPN STAR Sports Senior Vice-President of Affiliate Sales Adam Zecha said," We are pleased to conclude syndication agreements with the six broadcasters -- Channel 3 and BBTV7, VTV-3, TV5, CTN and Myawaddy TV. It signifies two things -- a strong partnership with these channels and continued distribution growth particularly in Indo-China. We have built a strong line-up of world-class sports programming and are delighted that fans in all of these territories will be able to experience the best in sports television, including Asia's most-watched sports programming, the English Premier League.

The syndication activity complements our extended sports coverage available on the 24-hour ESPN and STAR Sports channels, which are available in each of these countries."

The syndication agreements mean that viewers are able to catch 'live' matches of the English Premier League, which kicked off its 2004/2005 season on August 14, accompanied by a line-up of programming which covers predictions, highlights, news and information. Examples of these programmes are the EPL 'Weekly Highlights,' 'Weekly Goals Show' and 'Weekly Preview

The agreements take ESPN STAR Sports' distribution to a total of 128 million households for ESPN and over 54 million households for STAR SPORTS.

ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between two of the world's leading cable and satellite broadcasters, ESPN Inc. and STAR. We are Asia's complete sports provider reaching over 128 million households for ESPN and over 54 million households for STAR Sports (as of June 2004).

We have 13 networks -- ESPN Asia, ESPN India, ESPN Taiwan, ESPN Philippines, MBC-ESPN (Korea), ESPN Singapore, ESPN Hong Kong, STAR Sports Asia, STAR Sports India, STAR Sports Taiwan, STAR Sports Singapore, STAR Sports S.E.A and STAR Sports Hong Kong. We bring the world's premier live sports and leading regional events to viewers 24 hours a day. On the ground, the ESPN STAR Sports Event Management Group manages and promotes premier sporting events around Asia, including the Asian X Games, Futsal World 5's and the San Miguel Asian 9Ball Tour. On-line,, and interact with millions of users providing them with in-depth sports news, results and competitions. This multilingual, online platform which is closely integrated with ESPN and STAR Sports on air networks, has established the sites as the number one on-line sports destination in their respective markets.

Below was Published on September 27, 2004 in the Nation Post

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ShinSat needs to replace Thaicom 3

Shin Satellite Plc wants to move up the launch of its fifth satellite by four years to 2006 in case its ailing Thaicom 3 goes on the blink sooner than planned.

Chief commercial officer Yongsit Rojsrivichaikul said last week that Thaicom 5, at a cost of US$200 million (Bt8 billion), will be bigger than Thaicom 3 but have a similar physical design.

ShinSat’s shortlist of potential builders has France’s Aerospatiale, the prime contractor for Thaicom 3, as well as Boeing Satellite Systems and Space Systems/Loral of the US.

“We’re negotiating the details regarding the number of transponders on Thaicom 5. We expect there will be more than 30. We have to hurry and conclude the deal with one of the companies within this year,” Yongsit said.

ShinSat had planned to launch Thaicom 5 three or four years after its broadband satellite iPStar, also known as Thaicom 4, which is scheduled for takeoff early next year. Thaicom 5 is intended to replace Thaicoms 1, 2 and 3.

But the plan was revised after the company found an irreparable glitch in Thaicom 3 that will terminate its service in 2007.

Thaicom 3 was put in orbit in 1997 with a mission lifetime of 14 years, meaning it was designed to run to 2011.

Thaicom 3 experienced a severe technical problem in its power supply last year that knocked out nine of its transponders.

The same glitch prompted another failure in Thaicom 3 in the middle of this month, forcing ShinSat to shut it down twice for maintenance during a solar eclipse.

Thaicom 1 was launched in 1993 and was followed by the identical Thaicom 2 in 1994, with both having a lifespan of about 13.5 years. Their missions are due to end in 2009.

After Thaicom 5 starts up, Thaicom 3 will continue working for the duration of its serviceable life.

Hughes – now Boeing Satellite Systems – built Thaicoms 1 and 2 for ShinSat, while Space Systems/Loral is assembling iPStar.

ShinSat needs Thaicom 5 to provide conventional broadcasting services now offered by Thaicoms 1, 2 and 3, since iPStar will offer mainly broadband telecom services. Thaicom 5 will become the broadcasting centre for all TV programmes in Thailand, Yongsit said.

Thaicom 5 will not likely encounter the same ills as Thaicom 3 because ShinSat now has much more technical expertise, he said.

ShinSat has had no trouble in securing financing to build Thaicom 5, he said.

Thaicom 5 will be positioned at 78.5 degrees east longitude, the same orbit as Thaicoms 2 and 3. Thaicom 1 has been relocated to 120 degrees east.

The newest Thaicom will cater to an expanding number of television operators, a trend that is expected to gain speed when the regulator gets off the ground to issue more licences and deregulate the market.

Thailand is in the process of forming the National Broadcasting Commission.

Usanee Mongkolporn

Published on September 14, 2004 in the Nation Post:

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ShinSat blames satellite glitch on ‘eclipse’ repairs

The Thaicom 3 satellite temporarily malfunctioned late Sunday night, disrupting the television programming of its main customer, United Broadcasting Corp Plc (UBC).

Shin Satellite Plc (ShinSat), the owner of the satellite, filed a notice with the Stock Exchange of Thailand yesterday, saying the disruption occurred when the company “decided to turn off temporarily the transponders on its Thaicom 3 satellite in order to recharge the batteries while performing maintenance during the eclipse”.

The Thaicom 3 satellite resumed service in the early afternoon yesterday.

The maintenance knocked out UBC satellite television programmes at 11.54pm on Sunday, leaving many viewers frustrated, especially those waiting for the US Open final between Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt at 3am yesterday and American football fans waiting for some of the first games of the season at midnight.

“It’s very frustrating for me that it had to blank out during the final round,” said one UBC satellite TV viewer.

Subscribers of UBC’s cable television were unaffected by Thaicom 3 satellite’s downtime. But ATMs at some banks, which use the satellite to link with their branches, also experienced disruptions.

Sompan Charumilinda, chief executive of UBC, said the company did not receive prior warnings about the maintenance.

“We have already made an appointment with ShinSat executives to discuss how to prevent such events from happening in the future,” he said.

UBC has more than 400,000 subscribers, of which about 300,000 receive programming through satellite signals.

The rest get their service via cable lines.

The Thaicom 3 satellite experienced its first glitch in February when a problem surfaced in its power supply.

That knocked out some UBC satellite programmes and cut off a number of transponders, which have been rendered useless to provide television signals. ShinSat has yet to solve the power supply problem in the affected transponders.

A telecom industry source said the power problem means Thaicom 3 can only provide service via the unaffected transponders.

“As a result, its unaffected transponders are overloaded, thus tilting the satellite off-balance on Sunday night.

“ShinSat had to shut down all power and reposition it back to the right position,” the source added.

He said if such events continue it would affect customer trust, especially regional customers who receive the iPSTAR broadband satellite service from Thaicom 3 satellite.

ShinSat currently provide iPSTAR broadband satellite service via the Thaicom 3 to regional customers.

It is planning to launch the real iPSTAR satellite into orbit early next year.

Thaicom 3 satellite started operating in 1997 and under normal conditions is expected to last 15 years.

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Published on Jul 4, 2004 in the Nation Post:

Non-UBC satellite TV subscribers have access to 300 stations, several in Thai

Remember the good old days when there were only four TV channels - 3, 5, 7 and 9 - and your only concern was making sure the picture on your set wasn't too blurry?

But in this era of information technology, you can be overwhelmed with TV channels - if you have the money to invest in a good satellite dish equipped with a sophisticated receiver that can tune into one of some 25 birds orbiting Thailand.

Where satellite broadcasting is concerned, the sky literally is the limit. A local firm that makes satellite dishes and receivers counts over 300 channels of unscrambled TV signals beamed into Thailand from some 25 satellites.

As a result, while arguments rage over TV stations expanding into new satellite channels, a group of people in the know has already been tuning in to more than 300 of them.

Several are broadcast in Thai, and at least three adult movie stations are accessible in Thailand via yearly subscription rates that run from Bt5,000 to Bt6,000. These are Bluekiss, ST1 and Free XTV, which sell subscription access cards via websites.

The satellite subscribers even have their own Web board where they share technical information on how to tune in.

Even the controversial Dhamakaya Temple has its own channel beamed from the ThaiCom 3 satellite.

Members of the Web board said they had discovered a new satellite channel dedicated to Thai boxing broadcasts.

For those who desire English news, the satellite TV audience get signals from channels such as BBC World, NHK World and CNN International.

Satellite television is broadcast in two frequency bandwidths: C-band and KU-band. The signals are beamed down in either analogue or digital formats.

C-band signals require a bigger satellite dish, but the C-band's footprint is much larger than that of the KU-band. Depending on the location, a KU-band system can mostly receive signals from only ThaiCom 2/3 satellites, while a C-band dish can receive many more signals.

Some manufacturers have made products that receive both C-band and KU-band channels in both analogue and digital formats. This kind of system has become a hit amongst the satellite TV audience.

The manufacturers have also equipped their products with automatic tracking systems that turn disks to the best angle to receive signals from specific channels.

While a KU-band-only digital broadcast system runs at about Bt6,000, the price of a sophisticated all-in-one system with moveable dish ranges from Bt15,000 to Bt20,000.

However, as members of the "Thai satellite problem" Web board put it, most of the free-to-air satellite channels accessible in Thailand are "rubbish", mere repetitions of terrestrial TV from the countries where those channels originate. Most of them are also broadcast in local languages, such as Hindi, Chinese and Nepalese.

As a result, the members of the Web board are ogling subscription satellite television. These subscription channels are encrypted with digital codes, but the satellite TV audience - with the help of some manufacturers - has been able to decode the signals and watch for free.

Two popular subscription stations are Malaysia's Astro and the Dream DTH network from the Philippines. These two stations, according to the Web board, have similar programmes to UBC, except they are broadcast in English.

New model receivers have built-in decoders, which automatically search for keys that decode encrypted signals. Those with older models have to use remote controls to key in a decoding sequence and ask for the codes from friends on the Web board.

The price of a system with the automatic decoding capability, which can be ordered through the websites that support the Web board, is about Bt6,900.

But there is a risk. The Astro and Dream stations still use old encrypting software. Once they upgrade their security, viewers will find it hard to hack in and watch their programmes for free.

"What if I invest in an Astro system and then they change the encryption to version 2?" said a message on the Web board.

"Don't worry, you will still be able to use the system to watch free-to-air stations. Moreover, it will take months for them to upgrade the encryption. Still, if they do, I believe Thai programmers are good enough to hack them," came the reply.

And messages on the board indicate that the free viewers are eyeing UBC, but they admit that they have failed to break the Irdeto 2 encryption application, the hardest encryption to crack thus far.

Meanwhile, Jirawan Chenaphun, a manager of satellite-dish maker Dynasat, said demand for satellite TVs had been growing strongly in the past decade with 40 per cent of customers belonging to upper-low-income groups, 50 per cent to middle-income groups and the rest upper-income earners.

With a proper dish, you can access 50-60 channels of international programmes after investing a one-time fee of Bt10,000-Bt30,000 in a system.

"Most satellite TV watchers want news and up-to-date foreign information, but entertainment channels are always reliable, " she said, adding that continual technological development and increased competition will spur demand for new satellite TVs.

Trinai Kajornkiatniyom, marketing manager of satellite TV firm PSI Holding, said prices for systems had dropped from Bt50,000 to Bt10,000.

"This year's sales have increased 50 per cent from the same period last year. Our main target group is sports lovers because those audiences don't face a language barrier. They can watch the programmes in Indonesian or Indian languages," he said, adding that this month PSI will launch a new satellite package focusing on housewives. They can watch more than 30 channels for free after paying a one-time fee of Bt8,500.

Trinai said the price was expected to fall as low as Bt5,000 per system soon.

Paisal Chuenprasaeng


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MCOT will start an english language channel

The premier English-language channel on MCOT Television will situate itself as the news broadcaster of the East

The Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand (MCOT) will broaden its role in the broadcasting industry not only at home but also abroad, after listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in September, with its first-ever English-language channel, MCOT Television.

The around-the-clock channel, to cost more than a billion baht, would be the ``window to the East'' with worldwide coverage, according to director-general Mingkwan Sangsuwan.

The channel will also serve the government's policy of tightening trade ties with other countries by creating better understanding of Thailand.

Even with big players such as NHK, CNN and BBC dominating the market, Mr Mingkwan said the channel would secure a place of its own by clearly positioning itself as the channel of the East.

Programmes on the channel will partly be produced by Panorama Co, MCOT's 90%-controlled subsidiary, with a focus on documentaries.

New production companies will be added in the future through acquisitions. More staff will also be trained after the state enterprise is transformed into MCOT Plc. ``Being a private company will help us move forward with our expansion plans even faster. Over the next two years, I believe MCOT will still post a significant growth rate, driven by new businesses and better performances of existing ones, especially radio,'' said Mr Mingkwan whose term has two more years to go.

The MCOT currently operates television Channel 9, and also owns the concessions for Channel 3, and UBC pay-TV, as well as 62 radio stations.

In the nine months to June this year, its net profit rose 81.8% to 1.01 billion baht on total sales of 1.97 billion baht.

The cabinet recently approved MCOT's corporatisation plan amid criticism that it could be in violation of the 1997 Constitution, which calls for the establishment of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to oversee media reform.

Mr Mingkwan insisted the corporatisation plan followed the legal process, as did a public hearing.

The MCOT board also approved a 50% increase in staff salaries, reportedly to meet the standards of a private company.

The MCOT currently has three billion baht in paid-up capital, comprising 600 million shares with a par value of five baht each. The Finance Ministry will still hold a 75% stake after the listing.

The initial public offering would float 25% of all shares, with foreign investors restricted to holding no more than 15% of total shares and individual holdings capped at 5%. A source said the IPO would raise about four billion baht.

Date Posted: 30/07/2004

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No more "free" Astro viewing?

Astro All Asia Networks expects its expenditure on programming to increase to RM600 million in the next three years, said chief operating officer David Butorac.

Butorac said the country's sole satellite television station had installed about 370,000 decoders in 2003. He said Astro had installed 103,000 decoders in the first quarter of this year and expected to install more than 370,000 decoders throughout the year. "For the next three to four years, our target is to install 250,000 to 300,000 decoders annually,'' he said, adding that Astro had previously spent RM460mil on programming.

Butorac was speaking at a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing between Philips Malaysia and Sanmina-SCI System (M) (SSCI) to appoint SSCI as the manufacturer of Philips' Astro decoders. Philips chief executive officer Rajah Kumar said the company had invested about RM 2million to transfer the technology to SSCI to produce the decoder at its plant in Bukit Tengah Industrial Park, Penang. He said SSCI, capable of producing 500,000 decoders yearly, had recently undertaken the task to produce an enhanced version of Philips decoders. Astro will soon introduce a new anti-cloning access smart card to its 1.383 million subscribers soon to fight the growing access card cloning racket.

Astro chief operating officer, David Butorac said subscribers will be informed to change their access card soon when the new smart card was ready for distribution. He said this was to ensure that the cloning access card became obsolete.

Meanwhile, thanks to Astro, Malaysian viewers will have the option of viewing live action from the Summer Olympics in Athens via the interactive service featuring six screens.

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