Interviewer: Caleb Henry, Assistant Editor, Via Satellite (integrating Executive: Omar Shoter, CEO, NOORSAT

12 Oct 2016

The Questions:

1. 2016 marks NOORSAT®’s tenth year in existence. How has business been lately?

Business is very good and solid.We are proud of the progress that we have made over the last ten years, since the establishment of the business. The region that we serve has seen a huge uptick in demand for satellite services and we are responding to this requirement,but we are also prepared for any new demands that emerge in the future.

The company was established to serve the Arab World with satellite capacities for a variety of applications including DTH (Direct to Home) TV, VSAT, Internet and telephony services. We were able to predict the surge indemand for satellite services across the region and, through our strategic partnership with Eutelsat, we have been able to satisfy this demand over the last decade.

The population is looking for access to a wider range of TV and radio channels and there is also a great requirement for connectivity for business communications and Internet services. We do not anticipate any slowdown in this demand. The business has grown at a steady rate over the last ten years and we believe that this will continue. We predict a positive outlook for future business.

2. NOORSAT has satellite coverage over Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. What trends are you seeing in these regions?

We are seeing demand for both High Definition (HD) TV channels and low budget small text, low bitrate TV channels. Both need special, state of the art infrastructure and we have equipped (and continue to equip) our teleport with the latest equipment to cater for this demand. We are also about to start supplementary ground services to enhance the reach of our customers.

We are also seeing a rise in demand for broadband and Internet services, especially for businesses. This is another important trend that is happening across the region at present. We are constantly thinking about our customer base and their needs so that we can respond in an agile and proactive way.

3. There is a lot of satellite capacity available and becoming available over the MENA region. In your opinion, is there a surplus of capacity? How is (or isn’t this) affecting the market?

For the DTH TV services from both Hotspots serving the Arab World, in the KU-Band, the physical limit has been reached, therefore, no surplus capacity can be added from these orbital slots, any surplus capacity may happen from other slots for non-DTH TV services

4. Looking ahead, do you anticipate needing more satellite capacity for NOORSAT in the near term?

As stated above, in the DTH TV business from the two hotspots covering the Arab World, the used KU-Band is fully utilized and no more capacity can be added.

5. What potential do you see for High Throughput Satellites (HTS) in MENA?

As NOORSAT is primarily involved in the DTH (Direct to Home) TV business, we are not affected by HTS. However, HTS satellites in the region have enormous potential for users of non-DTH services such as broadband and telecom, especially in underserved areas. As HTS offer high quality at lower cost, I think there will be a considerable market in the regions that are not well served by fiber infrastructure. 

6. What would you describe as the biggest market vertical or new business opportunity for NOORSAT today?

The biggest market vertical for NOORSAT would be our DTH (Direct to Home) TV services. The entire region has an insatiable requirement for TV and this represents our core market.We have access to the only two hotspots that serve the region: Badr Al Nile® at 7/8° West orbital position via NOORSAT 7 and NOORSAT 7B satellites, and Badr Al Arab® at 25.5° East orbital position via NOORSAT 1 satellite. We deliver services to over 50 million TV homes across the Arab World.

As I alluded to before, the demand for regional content in particular is soaring and people want content that is related to their culture, values and traditions. This is what NOORSAT provides.

In addition, we are experiencing increased demand for Occasional Use capacity due to the fact that the Arab World has featured heavily in the news of late and therefore capacity for breaking news and other broadcast purposes is in demand.

I would also say that data driven services are set to grow as broadband demand increases. We see a lot of requirements for data-centric services from businesses for a variety of applications and we work with them to ensure that their mission-critical needs are met. 

7. How many channels are you broadcasting today? What is the mix of SD/HD? Do you anticipate broadcasting any Ultra-HD channels in the near future?

If we go back in time to 2009, we were broadcasting 170 TV and radio channels across the region. Today, this has increased to over 300. In 2015, we expanded our DTH TV capacities with the addition of NOORSAT 7B in order to meet rising demand across the region.

NOORSAT delivered the first HDTV bouquet across the Arab World over the former NOORSAT 2 Satellite at 7° West. We have been diligent and have tried to future proof our infrastructure as much as possible by upgrading our equipment for HD TV channels, following the required standards.

We are constantly watching the UHD and 8k development and spread in the region and will be ready to equip its teleport to offer such new services whenever the need in the region arises.

8. NOORSAT has been accused of supporting pirated content in the recent past. Have you found pirated content being distributed by your customers? What is Noorsat doing to curb piracy?

At NOORSAT we absolutely oppose piracy and fully recognize the damage that it does. In fact, we were behind the MENA Broadcast Satellite Anti Piracy Coalition whose members consist of major stakeholders in the Middle East satellite TV industry. The Coalition was formed so that members may share informationalign strategies to prevent content pirates using broadcast platforms to steal intellectual property rights and damage our legitimate interests. So, we are very passionate about stamping out piracy in all its forms.

We were the first satellite provider to stop pirated TV channels and have taken many TV channels off air in the spirit of cooperation with the Coalition and we are dedicated to continuing our cooperation with all Coalition members and copyright owners or any other party that asks for our assistance in this matter.

NOORSAT is not considered legally responsible for any content broadcast by any TV channel using NOORSAT’s platform. When we sign a contract with our clients, it is agreed that the TV channel is liable for any content they broadcast and that they will take responsibility of any infringement of the Intellectual Property Rights.

NOORSAT succeeded in minimizing the number of infringements over the last year and we will be focused on improving this further in 2017.

9. How many teleports does NOORSAT operate? What ground segment advances are you currently pursuing?

NOORSAT operates a state-of-the-art Teleport and Broadcasting Centre that enables us to offer a range of services to our customers including extensive content delivery options, playout services, TV backhauling and Occasional Use TV services. Coupled with the Teleport and Broadcasting Centre is our high level, 24x7 customer service.

NOORSAT is able to provide a one-stop-shop to suit our customers’ needs and to give them peace of mind. In terms of ground segment advances, we take great pride in our ground infrastructure which is cutting-edge, and we will continue to upgrade and enhance it as our customers’ needs dictate.

10. What are your goals for NOORSAT in 2017?

We are very proud of our position in the market as a leading DTH and telecom service provider in the region. In 2017, we will look to strengthen and build upon our achievements and, by the time we celebrate our next decade of business, we would like to be the premier platform for DTH in the Arab World.

To achieve this, we will continue to focus upon our very high quality customer service and our competitive prices. We will also strive to be one step ahead when it comes to industry and technological developments. We know our market intimately, and we will continue to serve it to the very high standard that our customers recognize.