Gazprom Space Systems (GSS) has started an active development of its services in Africa – CEO Dmitry Sevastiyanov talks to Communications Africa about prospective and implemented projects the Russian satellite operator has within the African market following the launch of its Yamal-402 satellite
Communications Africa: What is your business model?
Dmitry Sevastiyanov: In Russia Gazprom Space Systems is both a satellite operator and a service provider that transmutes satellite capacity into services, such as telecom links, TV distribution and broadband access. Outside of Russia we are only a satellite operator, offering the use of our satellite capacity to overseas service providers in more than 130 countries.
Authorised providers handle customer relations all by themselves, but GSS commercial and technical support staff also keep in touch with our customers. We encourage potential customers to test our satellite capacity so that they can properly estimate its true worth.
Communications Africa: What are the main complications and nuances of the satellite business in Africa?
Sevastiyanov: Competition is pretty tough between satellite operators in Africa. All of the major global satellite operators have a solid presence in Africa – Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, and Telesat – as well as some strong regional operators. Demand for satellite communications and broadcasting far exceeded supply in the mid-2000s.
In just two years, from 2009, 13 satellite operators launched or transferred from other positions about 20 satellites with beams covering sub-Saharan Africa. More than 200 transponders were added to enhance capacity during that time, while coastal Africa became entangled in a maze of powerful submerged fiber optic cables. Inner Africa, however, which does not have so many access networks, still needs satellite services very much.
Communications Africa: What projects have already been implemented on Yamal-402?
Sevastiyanov: Yamal-402 sub-Saharan Beam covers Central, East, and South Africa and connects Africa with Europe. Together with Telemedia, two platforms of African TV channels were allocated on the Yamal-402 satellite.
We provide Yamal-402 capacity via the sub-Saharan beam and the European beam, which is cross strapped from South Africa. These new TV channels cover the Sub-Saharan audience from Dakar in the northwest to Mauritius in the southeast. Extensive coverage is provided over most of Africa with EIRP to allow reception on 60cm or 90cm diameter dishes. The European beam provides coverage from London in the northwest to Dubai and Mecca in the southeast. It also covers the north coast of Africa and central Europe.
The technical parameters, the high EIRP’s and the extensive wide area footprint of the sub-Saharan beam gives huge versatility for both contribution and distribution across Africa. The wide area coverage of the European footprint, which is cross strapped with South Africa, allows services to be up-linked from Johannesburg and down-linked throughout the Middle East and Europe.
GSS also rapidly develops other business directions, such as connection of remote areas, Internet via satellite and services for sea vessels. Yamal-402 satellite capacity is being used by both European teleports and companies actively working in Africa, such as Sat Space Africa, ITC Global and Castor Networks.
Communications Africa: What does the Russian satellite have to offer to international clientele?
Sevastiyanov: The capacity of the high quality is a great value. Yamal-402 is in no way inferior to similar competitors in service for Africa or the Middle East. Its TV signal can be received with satellite dishes 60cm to 90cm in diameter. But its competitive strength stretches beyond its technical metrics. The level of customer support, the pricing and the contract terms also matter.
Communications Africa: Are the services of GSS satellites attractively priced in the international markets?
Sevastiyanov: Satellite services offered by GSS in the international marketplace are no cheaper than the offerings of some new players marketing satellite capacity with similar metrics. Prices change quickly in the emerging markets.
In Africa, the average price of satellite capacity has nearly halved in the past five years as new operators came along with lots of new satellites. This naturally puts pressure on the prices. There is, however, a limit to how low prices can fall. Satellite operators have to pursue a balanced pricing policy so as not to crash the market or suffer loss from their business.