Categories
Telecom Asia

Mabuhay looks to Asian content distribution: ambitious Philippine player Mabuhay is stalking major markets. Stakes are high, and opportunities are hard to come by – News Analysis – Brief Article

Mabuhay looks to Asian content distribution: ambitious Philippine player Mabuhay is stalking major markets. Stakes are high, and opportunities are hard to come by – News Analysis – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included

Art Villasanta

Video, and not IP or data, will be the major focus for Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Corporation in 2002.

Mabuhay intends to leverage Agila’s advantage as the only Asian satellite in the US Permitted Space Station List to forge partnerships with regional broadcasters, particularly in mainland China and Taiwan.

Senior marketing manager Johnson Regalado told TelecomAsia that Mabuhay sees strong growth in the video broadcast and distribution markets this year, particularly in bringing Asian content to niche markets in the US and the western hemisphere.

The focus on video is aimed at keeping Mabuhay profitable despite a continuing consolidation and restructuring among Philippine telecom and broadcast companies (with a number in dire financial straits such as Mabuhay customer, Bayan Telecommunications) and “undercutting price techniques” by other Asian satellite operators.

Mabuhay, the operator of Agila, the Philippines’ only communications satellite, recorded net income in 2001 of $3 million, 67% higher than 2000. At best, Mabuhay projects a 10% income growth in 2002. Mabuhay is 67% owned by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the largest local telco.

Besides strong growth in the video broadcast and distribution markets in 2002, Regalado also saw improvements in the IP market that should prompt further growth in Mabuhay’s IP bandwidth service.

China connection

Mabuhay’s sights are set primarily on China, which lacks Ku-band capacity for DTH broadcasts. Partnerships with Chinese companies would allow Mabuhay to transmit video and data to and from North America and China via Hawaii.

Mabuhay last year signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ChinaSat) and Sinosat to provide complementary international connectivity. ChinaSat is the operator of eight operational and inactive satellites while Sinosat operates the Sinosat 1 broadcast satellite.

Mabuhay has also signed an MoU with another state-run firm, China International Television Services, the international commercial arm of the CCTS TV channels that Mabuhay will distribute in China and throughout Asia.

Regalado believes that Agila’s being on the US Permitted Space Station List validates its position as the sole Asian satellite that can be accessed by US teleport operators in US territory, free from strict US government scrutiny.

Downside

“This fact positions Agila2 as the Asian satellite alternative for data, voice, video, and internet traffic between Asia-Pacific and the USA,” claims Regalado.

Mabuhay also has arrangements with four teleport operators in Hawaii: SkyTiger, VisionAccomplished, TransVision, and Loral Cyberstar.

China is the world’s biggest broadcasting market with more than 350 million TV sets, 90 million cable TV subscribers and 500 million radios in a population of 1.3 billion, hence Mabuhay’s China focus.

But there is a downside to Mabuhay’s plans. Agila’s Ku-band beam only covers China’s east coast, limiting the satellite’s revenue generating potential. And only 18 of 24 Ku-band transponders are operating to avoid interference with Japan’s Superbird C satellite.

Across the Taiwan Strait, Mabuhay is positioning itself to take advantage of a rush by Taiwanese broadcasters to offer digital TV services by 2003.

Mabuhay said it is investing in receiving antennas to be installed in about 70 cable TV headend stations throughout Taiwan to draw TV networks to shift their domestic feeds to Agila’s Ku-band transponders.

Agila’s transponders can relay more than 50,000 simultaneous two-way telephone conversations and 190 channels of digital TV programming. As of December 2001, Agila2 was about 70% utilized, with C-band transponder utilization at 90% and Ku-band utilization at 30%, said Regalado.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group