Q&A with Omar Shoter, CEO of NOORSAT

30 Jul 2016

NOORSAT® was established in 2006 as the first privately-owned satellite service provider in the Arab World and today operates six Ku-band satellites’ capacities. The company serves the broadcast and media industry with content delivery, playout, TV backhauling and occasional use TV services, as well as the broadband market for data and telecommunications. From its leading position in the Arab region, NOORSAT reaches more than 50 million TV homes and broadcasts more than 300 SD and HD radio and TV channels. Amy Saunders spoke with Omar Shoter, NOORSAT’s CEO, to learn more about the company’s development through to its 10th anniversary, its view on recent market trends, and its outlook for the future.

Question: Can you provide an overview of NOORSAT’s development, from founding to where it stands today?

NOORSAT has come a long way since its establishment as a small operation in Bahrain. We have achieved an impressive rate of growth and have achieved a significant market share over the past ten years. We are extremely proud of the journey we have taken. Over the past decade, the demand for satellite services across the Arab World has grown significantly and this is only forecast to increase further as the population demands more access to a wider range of TV and radio channels and also access to connectivity for business communications and Internet services. 

NOORSAT was established to serve the Arab World with satellite capacities from DTH (Direct-to-Home) TV to TV backhauling to Occasional Use TV to VSAT, Internet and telephony services. We entered the market with a unique and a comprehensive business approach that was propelled by our strategic partnership with Eutelsat and other key industry players. NOORSAT offers a compelling proposition to broadcasters and users as our coverage is so extensive viewers do not have to adjust their satellite dishes in order to receive the content they want. NOORSAT also identified that the requirement for satellite services was set to grow exponentially and we were ready and prepared for this.

In 2009, we were broadcasting 170 TV and radio channels across the region. Today, this has increased to over 300, and we deliver services to over 50 million TV homes across the Arab World. 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.

In 2015, we were proud to expand our DTH TV capacities with the addition of NOORSAT 7B in order to meet rising demand across the region.

The Arab World is a diverse region and therefore has a specific need for regional content. We continue to serve this dynamic region with our cost-effective, high quality services reinforced with our dedicated customer service.

Question: NOORSAT is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016 – what milestones has the company reached over the years that you’re particularly proud of?

As the first privately owned satellite service provider in the Arab World, NOORSAT has achieved a great deal in the last decade. As I have previously stated, we now carry over 300 TV and Radio channels in both SD and HD quality and we deliver Direct to Home (DTH) TV services to over 50 million households across the region. I am also pleased to say that the company’s satellite capacity and impeccable customer service is highly sought-after and this had led to our significant market share in the region.

Last year, we expanded our capacity due to increased demand across the region with the introduction of NOORSAT 7B, which represented another important event in our history.

I am also particularly proud of our state-of-the-art Teleport and Broadcasting Centre that offers around the clock monitoring and support and that is supported by a very strong customer service team.

NOORSAT has enjoyed ten years of steady growth and 2016 marks an important milestone in the company’s development. We are focusing on the future at a time when there are so many exciting developments in our industry and we are privileged to be a part of it.

Question: The NOORSAT 7B satellite started commercial operations in October 2015. Can you tell us about the development of the project, and your experiences so far with it?

We were extremely proud to add NOORSAT 7B to our portfolio of capacity. The satellite was launched in August 2015 to help to meet the enormous demand across the Arab region. The satellite began operations on October 1st 2015 and services were transferred from the NOORSAT 7B gap filler satellite. The satellite is located at the region’s most watched hotspot and is equipped with an anti-jamming system to protect TV channels from potential jamming and interference. The satellite is functioning extremely well and we are looking forward to the delivery of services on this bird for many years to come. 

Question: How have NOORSAT’s markets developed over the years, and where is the biggest opportunity for growth?

As a region, the Arab World is experiencing enormous demand for TV and for connectivity. People want to be connected and they want choice.

DTH TV still represents a growing market due to insatiable demand for channels that deliver a vast array of content. For the Arab World in particular, regional content is a big driver of our business and we see growth in this area. Viewers want to see content, on both radio and TV channels, that is tailored to their culture. The number of channels that deliver this programming is growing.

OU capacity demand is also growing and we see potential for growth here. The Arab World has featured heavily in the news, and OU capacity for breaking news and other broadcast purposes is in demand.

Data-centric service demand is also set to grow as the insatiable demand for broadband continues. Businesses especially have a great need for connectivity and we work with them to ensure that their mission-critical needs are met. We offer capacities that can serve broadband access, data applications, VoIP, GSM backhauling, and VSAT services for private and governmental networks. In addition, NOORSAT provides connectivity to fibre optic networks from different parts around the world to its broadcast centre.

The prospects for the Arab market are extremely good and we wish to strengthen our position in the market in order to serve our customers with the highest quality DTH TV and capacities for data and telecoms services.

Question: What emerging trends and challenges have you observed in NOORSAT’s markets, and how will they be met?

The market has witnessed demand for both HD TV channels and low budget small text, low bitrate, TV channels, both need special state of the art infrastructure, hence, we have equipped and continue equipping 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.

Question: How has the advent of high throughput satellites (HTS) affected NOORSAT’s business and market outlook?

The High Throughput Satellites (HTS) has been designed to offer high capacities at less cost for non-DTH services, such as broadband and telecom; especially, in underserved areas, thus, we would not be affected as our main market is in the DTH TV business. 

Question: How has NOORSAT eased the transition from SD to HD? Will the company be looking at UHD and 8K in the future?

As a company, we were proud to deliver the very first HDTV bouquet across the Arab World over the former NOORSAT 2 Satellite at 7° West. We are capable of delivering HD TV channels for customers across the board and we upgraded our equipment in order to do so several years ago, following the standards required.

NOORSAT is 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.

Question: What does NOORSAT hope to achieve in 2016-2017, and for its next 10 years of operations?

We hope that the next year will bring more of the same! We would like to strengthen our standing in the market. As per our mission, we will strive to maintain NOORSAT’s position as a leading satellite-based DTH and telecom service provider in the region, and to deliver the highest quality customer service at a competitive price.

Over the coming decade we would like to see the company become the premier platform for DTH TV in the Arab World, to maintain out pace with industry developments and to provide new, hi-tech, satellite-based associated services.

NOORSAT is proud to serve the region with our wide range of high quality services and excellent customer relations. We are looking forward to our next ten years of business in this flourishing market.