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SES Invests In Hybrid Future

As emerging broadband and digital terrestrial networks provide new distribution options on the ground, SES president and CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh wants the satellite operator to play a central role in the delivery of fixed, wireless and satellite communications.

We’re very much invested in this,” Sabbagh said, speaking at this year’s APOS conference. “For us, the future is going to be hybrid.”

The company is testing a way for smart devices to double up as set-top boxes for example, using its own technology standard to convert video, received via DTH or any other TV transmission technology, into IP signals that can be picked up via WiFi.

This standard, called Sat-IP, has been adopted by an increasing number of consumer electronics and equipment manufacturers since it was first introduced in 2012.

SES also has a sizable stake in satellite broadband provider O3b Networks, which it may increase to a majority interest over the next one to two years.

O3b, which focuses on emerging markets, is working to upgrade its network and extend coverage with new satellites after launching its first constellation in 2013.

“We need to start steering away from saying ‘this is a solution on cable, this is a solution on satellite and this is the solution over OTT’, because in the end that is not what is relevant to the end user,” Sabbagh advocated.

The technology required to deliver a seamless experience is already available, he added.

“We've already deployed this with a number of clients in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Asia should not be excluded from that,” Sabbagh said.

“This is not the same thing as talking about: We have an OTT offering, and we have a linear offering,” he added.

“What I'm talking about is one integrated offering that is a hybrid offering.”

cost controls

While Sabbagh aims to future-proof SES’s business with hybrid platforms, he also sees plenty of upside for traditional DTH by improving the alignment between costs and revenue in under-penetrated pay-TV markets.

“Where we're seeing success in markets like Indonesia, the Philippines and others is where the service offering from a content standpoint, from an economic standpoint, from a delivery standpoint, are commensurate to the market requirement,” he explained.

“This does not just put the burden on the pay-TV operators. It puts the burden on us, because now we have to think about an infrastructure that can economically deliver this with the quality requirements that are at par with the rest of the world,” he continued.

“We're spending more and thinking more about how can we design, manufacture and launch our satellites at 20% or 30% better efficiencies, so we can truly democratize deployment.”

Sabbagh also envisages demand for headend-in-the-sky (HITS) distribution during the final stages of India’s digital TV switchover, as an alternative to traditional DTH and digital cable platforms.

“The way we're thinking about it is: How do we reach the home directly via the antenna? Or how do we enable the cable networks? At the end of the day, we’re going to be part of that ecosystem,” Sabbagh said.

“So we're not looking at this as being a binary question: ‘Do you want to be this, or do you want to be that?’ That is not the way we are positioned.”

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