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What’s in the Cloud for Teleport Operators?

Posted By Robert Bell, 23 hours ago

Worldwide, cloud service providers generated US$220 billion in revenue in 2016, according to Gartner, and will nearly double that to $411 billion by 2020. With acres of server capacity and sophisticated systems to manage it, cloud providers offer their customers flexibility, scalability to burst traffic for high demand, and pay-per-use pricing. The most profound impact of the cloud may be its ability to turn capital expenses into operating expenses. This offers major advantage when starting up a service and substantially reduces the risks to the business in the event a new service fails to meet its objectives. 

You Need a Cloud Strategy

WTA will soon publish its first report on the adoption of cloud services – Clear Skies or Stormy Weather? Cloud Services for Teleport Operators. It argues that every teleport operator today needs a cloud strategy because of the impacts the cloud can have on its business.

Fast and Flexible in a Changing Market

In the media space, interconnection with a cloud provider allows one teleport operator to offer more flexible occasional-use video services, including the ability to quickly scale up during peak demand, along with a better cost structure. Using a public cloud to encode video may cost more per hour than on-premise technology, but it is well-suited to the unpredictable demand of occasional-use.

“As our business transitions from long-term commercial contracts to customers only willing to commit to three months of service at a time,” says an executive, “we can use a cloud solution to spin it up, deliver service and walk away without worrying about capex. Where it could take months to set up a channel before, we can literally set it up faster than the customer can make the final decision. Time-to-market shrinks from 30 days to under 60 minutes.”

New Markets

Partnering with cloud providers can provide access to new customers and new opportunities from existing ones. The big cloud providers have a massive network of customers and can help them market services to each other. The cloud operators also need what teleport operators have: the ability to connect to satellite and other dedicated transmission paths, and data processing capacity that puts workload closer to end-users. 

Their rich software toolkits can also help expand existing business. “A broadcaster needs multiple ways of getting content to the consumer,” says a contributor, “and lots of different ways to monetize the content to pay for the additional distribution cost. As their service provider, we need to offer IP delivery across all formats and networks. We need to master analytics so that we become their source for answers about viewer demographics and viewing habits, which is so critical to monetization.” 

Getting More from IT

The cloud offers teleport operators the same potential value as any other enterprise: the chance to reduce costs, increase agility and gain access to valuable applications. One respondent turns to cloud providers for special IT requirements. “If we are doing a customer-facing portal website for their services, often we will host it in the cloud, rather than us spinning up database and webservers in-house. It’s faster and takes advantage of the database, web hosting and other services the cloud provider already offers.” 

A cloud provider can also act as a highly secure platform for a teleport operator and customer to interconnect systems that need to talk to each other. One respondent described a customer’s request to integrate its in-house scheduling system with the playout system at the teleport. Directly connecting the platforms would create staffing, operational, legal and security issues for both companies. But interfacing the systems through an application programming interface (API) in the cloud protects both companies’ IT infrastructure while meeting the customer’s requirements. 

You Must be In It to Win It

Cloud providers also represent a new source of competition. Media-centric operators already report that transcoding, packaging, playout and workflows are beginning to migrate to the big cloud providers. Integrating cloud services into your operations also requires new skills to manage properly and the right approach to integration. But operators today have no choice but to understand the cloud thoroughly, adopt it intelligently and adapt to the changes it will bring to the business. 

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The Teleport Market: Growing? Shrinking? Both?

Posted By Robert Bell, Thursday, April 5, 2018

At the end of March, WTA published Sizing the Teleport Market 2018. It updated research last published in 2010 to provide estimates of the number of commercial teleports in operation, their revenues, satellite capacity usage, capital expenditures and headcount. Using this data, decision-makers can estimate the global and regional market share for a teleport operating company and conduct due diligence for mergers and acquisitions.

Consolidation and Growth

Over the past seven years, the teleport sector has seen consolidation as companies build scale to gain cost efficiencies and improve their competitive position. This has produced an industry that is smaller in the number of facilities it operates but larger in total revenues. The number of commercial teleports worldwide has decreased by 3% from 2016 to 2018, for an annual average of 1%.

Over the same period, however, estimated total revenues of the teleport sector grew 6% from US$9.813 billion in 2016 to $10.384 billion in 2018. Average revenue per teleport rose 9% from $13.9 million in 2016 to $15.2 million in 2018. For the sector as a whole, consolidation did its job of creating fewer, more productive assets.

Rising Capacity

That growth has been a boon to satellite operators. On a global basis in 2017, the teleport industry purchased 222,500 MHz of satellite capacity for an estimated $5.3 billion. Spending on capacity rose 6.5% across all regions from 2016 to 2018.

Consolidation, however, is hardly the whole story. While midsize companies become larger and the largest seek further increases in scale, new players enter the market to exploit new demand created by technology and market change. The teleport itself undergoes radical change: packing far more services into fewer antennas, virtualizing operations into software that once required massive hardware investments and substituting terrestrial networks for satellite distribution where they can.

Get the regional breakdowns and detailed data on revenue, capex, capacity usage, antenna counts and headcounts. Sizing the Teleport Market 2018 is free to WTA members and available for sale to non-members.


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A Good Teleport is Hard to Find – But Not For Long

Posted By Robert Bell, Thursday, February 8, 2018

Since the days when Lyngsat was the go-to resource (remember that?), people have been looking for a reliable, high-quality source of information on teleports. Those people work for satellite operators, for broadcasters, for corporate IT, in the oil and gas patch, in government and military. They work in any industry where there is a need to connect the network in the sky with the network on the ground and buy services that create a complete solution.

We understand the need because WTA has been filling it for a long time. You can already search for teleport operators in our online Marketplace. If they are members, we can also provide a great deal of accurate information about them. If you want to drill deeper, our Teleport Certification program helps you identify operators with quality of service your application needs.

But there has been something missing. The search for a teleport typically begins with a location. You need a facility within the footprint of a particular satellite, or one that is located strategically near a group of network endpoints. Working your way through text listings is a tough way to find what you need.

World Teleport Map

We are pleased to announce the solution: the World Teleport Map. Using Google Maps technology, we provide geolocation of hundreds of teleports around the world.  A click on the link will take you to our most up-to-date information on the operator and facilities, and whether or not they are WTA-certified. The same great, reliable information is now available to potential customers and strategic partners in a convenient visual format.

We will introduce the map shortly. It is one more reason for teleport operators to join their peers as members of WTA. It will ensure that they are well represented in the world’s only geographic guide to the industry. And for our certified teleports, it offers a new level of recognition of the quality of service they have validated through our program. 

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How Teleport Operators Respond to Market Disruption Will Determine Their Future

Posted By Robert Bell, Thursday, January 18, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018

The business environment in which teleport operators work is being disrupted by technology and market change. Their established businesses face disruption from new models of connectivity (HTS, MEO and LEO), by the rising domination of software over hardware, and customer demands for seamless global service. They are disrupting their own operations by innovating up the value chain to meet new customer needs, which requires a new depth of technology knowledge and strong management skills.

The CEO of one company summed it up: "Everybody desperately wants to know where things are headed right now – and nobody knows."

At the end of last year, WTA set to find out – or at least to survey the collected wisdom of the executives who have to make decisions today that will shape the success of their companies tomorrow. Our upcoming Teleport Opportunity Report explores how service providers in different market segments are adapting. What market opportunities are they targeting and where are they investing their capital? What are their biggest obstacles to growth and the biggest threats to their survival?

What We Learned

Here are some of the more interesting findings:

  • Of the top five growth opportunities cited by executives whose companies principally serve media & entertainment customers, only two are in media & entertainment. That may reflect a dim view of their core business's future: nearly half expect decline in DTH, terrestrial and cable origination and distribution.
  • Media-focused companies are betting on developing their own private cloud services as a winning strategy. Because TV content owners continue to hesitate on adopting public cloud services like AWS, they see opportunity in providing a "safer pair of hands" for their customer's precious content. Data-focused operators, however, are investing in integrating public cloud services into their offerings, apparently reasoning that they are never going to beat Amazon at its own game.
  • Despite the rising value of data and analytics, teleport operators' top three investment priorities continue to be in tsatcom infrastructure at their teleports, encode/decode and modem technology, and network management systems. Data center and IP infrastructure, OTT technology and security/encryption are lower priorities – but rise in importance when we asked executives what they would be investing in three years from now.

WTA member companies get free access to the report when it is published on January 23. It is also available to non-member companies for a price. Hint: it pays to be a member!

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What is a Satellite Services Business Really Worth?

Posted By Robert Bell, Friday, March 1, 2013

It is a bad time to sell satellite ground segment, aka a teleport.  But it is a great time to sell a successful satellite services business with a teleport at its core.  

That paradox is the conclusion of Best Practices in Teleport Valuation, a newly published report from the World Teleport Association.  

A teleport executive with several acquisitions said, "The only way you’re going to get any real value out of a business you are trying to sell is to look at it on an EBITDA basis (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).  The only way you would ever sell a teleport just as a physical asset is if you had to, because there was no ongoing business.  And it would be a distress sale.”  

What makes a teleport valuable to a buyer, if not the physical assets?  It is the value of the customer contracts, less the risk of their being cancelled, plus the track record of growth – and an analyst’s opinion of the current value of that future cash.  But there is much more to the story.   

It also makes a difference to buyers who the customers are.  "Contracts with other service providers are not of much value to us,” said an executive of a company that is making acquisitions annually.  "They are likely to be competitors.  We are interested in end-customers, not intermediaries.  The exception is in the emerging economies, where we like to see contracts with local partners.  Let’s say we are looking at a teleport in Europe that services Africa through small-to-midsize resellers.  There is value in that.  In each country, we need local partners who can find business, license it, install it and maintain it.”  

Another serial acquirer put it this way: "When you plan to put assets together, they need to perform better together than they would apart.  One plus one has to equal three or four.  Otherwise, why are you doing it?  One approach is to chase savings but that really doesn’t apply well to our business.  Most facilities are pretty lean when it comes to their biggest expense, which is people.  The point of having multiple facilities is to attract business that you never could before.”  

The satellite services business also has surprises in store for anyone used to valuing more conventional telecom assets.  "What is different about buying a teleport from buying most communications businesses,” said a former teleport CEO, "is that it is also a real estate purchase.  And in real estate, the three most important things are ‘location, location, location.’  Even in our global market, the services of a teleport are dependent on where you perform them from.”   

What can the owners of a teleport-based business do to increase their return on investment?  "When entrepreneurs sell businesses,” said one broker, "they have spent their whole lives getting customers and keeping operations going.  Attending to the mundane details of documentation has never been a priority.  But it becomes a priority now.”  

Another broker summed it up: "The more you have your act together, the better your valuation is going to be.  At least have your financials ready in GAAP form (generally accepted accounting principles) and make sure you have all the due diligence materials to back them up: bank records, records of litigation, environmental records, licenses, customer and vendor contracts.  The more you have this stuff neatly packaged with a bow on it, the more people are likely to believe what you say.”  

A media executive valued a different kind of investment.  "One very valuable step that doesn’t cost much money is to put extra effort into building your image or reputation.  Show up at trade shows, join association boards, sit on panels and work to be perceived as a leader in the industry.  It is one thing to have a business that is well-run; it is another to have people perceive that your company has strong, competent management, which can make it much more attractive to buyers.”   

And what’s the biggest mistake an owner can make in putting the business up for sale?  "A lot of sellers have unrealistic expectations,” said a teleport executive.  "In our industry lately, we have seen some deals done at very high valuations in terms of EBITDA multiples – high single or even double digits.  That is for companies that are large, have good contracts and professional leadership.  Owners see that and think that their small company can be sold for the same high multiple.”  But demanding a high price can carry risks.  "The owner just wants to recoup his investment, said another executive.  "He asks for crazy numbers and sticks to them.  In the end, he gets the opposite of what he wants.  He doesn’t get his price, and a broker comes in to break up the facility and sell the pieces as used equipment at the worst possible price.”  

It is the rare satellite services business that is publicly held and reveals its inner workings.  Best Practices in Teleport Valuation is a unique glimpse behind the scenes of a private market that is setting value on satellite services companies every day. 

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2012 Was the Year of Spectrum. What Will 2013 Hold?

Posted By Robert Bell, Monday, February 4, 2013

For better or worse – and mostly for better, I think – 2012 was the Year of Spectrum.   

We saw a series of amazing announcements about step-changes in the number of megabits we can run through a given amount of satellite spectrum.  In 2007, the research firm NSR coined a new term, "high-throughput satellite.”  Until 2012, high throughput was pretty much synonymous with the Ka band of frequencies, able to deliver more bits per hertz due to their shorter wavelengths and re-use of frequencies among spotbeams, from Wildblue and ViaSat-1 to Eutelsat’s KA-SAT, Hughes’ Jupiter, and Ka-band payloads on Avanti, Arabsat, Jabiru, SES, Inmarsat and O3B space-craft. 

But then Israel’s Novelsat and Belgium’s Newtec introduced modulation technologies that began a well-publicized race toward higher and higher speeds: 250, 310, 500 Mbps and beyond.  And in June, Intelsat said that its next generation of EPIC spacecraft would be high-throughput satellites employing the frequency re-use and architecture of the Ka-band birds in a mix of frequencies: hemi or regional beams in C and spotbeams in Ku and Ka.  No longer an outlier, the HTS design has now gone mainstream.    

In WTA’s Teleports in a Gigabit World report, we said that it is only a matter of time before one of these wizards announces the ability to put a gigabit per second through a transponder.  As ViaSat founder Mark Dankberg put it in that report, "What we are doing is to give you lots and lots of bandwidth to make your customer happy.  You are no longer trying to squeeze high performance out of a small amount of resource, and you are suddenly in a whole new world.”   But this brave new world also brings new challenges – and radio frequency interference is certainly one. The harder we push the spectrum to meet the world’s apparently limitless demand for bandwidth, the worse interference is likely to grow as an issue.   

At the end of last year, I was in Dubai for the annual meeting of the Satellite Interference Reduction Group and saw a starting presentation.  SES and Intelsat have recently upgraded their capabilities for capturing information on interference and its sources, and showed the meeting their first results.  They confirmed something I suspected ever since I did interviews for two of WTA’s What Customers Want reports, one on the media market and the other on enterprise. 

I learned that interference is a big issue for broadcasters, because they occupy full transponders carrying programming that earns them revenue.  In response to a question about interference, enterprise customers basically said "what interference?”  Their needs are met by fractional slices of bandwidth, and the impact of interference on them is not sufficient to get their attention.  So the early results announced by the satellite operators were startling but hardly a surprise: broadcast traffic, including SNG, generates only a tiny percentage of persistent interference.  By far the biggest source is VSAT carrying enterprise traffic.  Which means that, no matter how hard broadcasters work on reducing the interference they cause, they can’t fix what they mostly haven’t broken.  

And finally, in 2012, we began looking forward to 2015, when the World Radiocommunications Congress reconvenes and the mobile industry once again comes, like Oliver Twist, saying "Please, sir, may I have some more?”  The satellite industry did a good job of defending C-band from land-grabs at the last WRC, and will have to repeat the performance in 2015.  

The prospect of 2015 makes the following year-end news item a comfort.   

Two professors at the University of California, Riverside have developed a new method that doubles the efficiency of wireless networks.  Mobile traffic operates today in half-duplex mode: it sends on one channel and receives on another.  A full-duplex circuit sends and receives simultaneously on the same channel, doubling the efficiency.  Except that we don’t know how to do it in 3G and 4G.  Professors Yingbo Hua and Ping Liang have developed a solution called time-domain transmit beamforming, which prevents the simultaneous incoming and outgoing signals in a full-duplex circuit from interfering with each other.  It apparently does so in a manner consistent with existing mobile technologies.  Doctors, call your patent attorney.   

Don’t’ you know there’s a spectrum crunch?  The people want mobile voice and data, and we need your bandwidth now!  By 2015, maybe not so much. 

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Teleports in a Gigabit World

Posted By Robert Bell, Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Throughput, measured in bits per second, has long been the Achilles' Heel of satellite communications.  The global satellite network, with its unique location in the high ground of space, can do things that no other communications technology can do as efficiently and effectively.  But it has never been able to do very much of it.   

When TV was the only "broadband" application requiring significant throughput, it didn't matter.  But with the average smartphone today consuming more than a gigabit of data per month, we are clearly not in Kansas anymore when it comes to end-user demand.   

Since the 1990s, the industry has done its best to adapt.  Advances in compression delivered step-change improvements in capacity and allowed media companies and their service providers to squeeze more and more channels into a single transponder.   Each advance made service providers fear for the future – that demand would drop as capacity increased – but after a short time, customers always absorbed the extra capacity and wanted more.   

When Internet trunking became a market, it raised the bar by requiring advanced coding and error correction to reduce latency in two-way traffic.  And now Ka-band is making its way from specialized niche application to the mainstream through the efforts of Avanti, Eutelsat, ViaSat, Arabsat and Hughes.  In the process, it seems to have unleashed a different paradigm on the industry.  

When ViaSat bragged that its ViaSat-1 spacecraft would add more bandwidth in space than the entire GEO satellite fleet, it was more than a marketing statement.  It signaled a change in the rules of the game.  The "high-throughput satellite," a term coined by NSR, went from vision to reality in a remarkably short time.  And it has triggered an "arms race" among satellite technology companies to deliver higher and higher throughput in C and Ku bands as well. Intelsat's EPIC announcement was only the most recent, if most far-reaching, of a wave of innovation in coding and network architecture.    

Why is it happening now and what will it mean for the companies that deliver services via satellite?  From now through early September, WTA will be conducting interviews with executives from technology, teleport and satellite companies for a report titled Teleports in a Gigabit World.  We will ask whether the ability to market a lower-cost service in C, Ku or Ka-band will be a positive or negative for their businesses.  Are there opportunities to gain a competitive advantage over slow adopters or become gateways for integrated high-speed networks?  If so, what new investment demands will it create and what technologies should they bet on?  In the process, how can they stay true to a successful teleport's most important rule: invest ahead – but only a little ahead – of customer demand to avoid getting stuck with unusable technology.  

Find out on September 24, when Teleports in a Gigabit World will be published online.  Like all WTA reports, it will be free to members and available for sale to non-members.

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In Satellite Contracts, What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You

Posted By Robert Bell, Friday, July 6, 2012

Satellite capacity is a uniquely valuable asset.  It can do some things, like broadcasting one signal to millions of destinations, better and cheaper than any other technology.  But it is also a scarce asset, thanks to the laws of physics and the skilled yield management of the operators that fly spacecraft in Earth orbit.

In 2011, the members of World Teleport Association shared with us in confidence the amount of money they spend on satellite capacity.   The average teleport operator spends an amount equal to 47% of revenue – in effect, turning over half of its annual income to the provider of transmission capacity in the sky.  Spending on terrestrial capacity doesn't even come close.

That is why, on June 13, we published a report titled Best Practices in Satellite Capacity Contracts.  It focuses on the actual terms of capacity contracts that can create potential harm or advantage for the service provider, from ramp ups to termination clauses, portability to usage and resale rights.  It may not be a thrilling read to take on your summer holiday, but it offers valuable insights culled from interviews with teleport executives who know the contracting process inside and out. 

What are the biggest potential traps to avoid when you sign a contract for satellite capacity? They range from everybody's top-of-mind concerns to subtle nuances in wording.            

Lease Term
Anything in the contract that doesn’t line up with your customer contract represents a risk to your business.  "The conditions that cause us the most concern in satellite capacity contracts,” one teleport operator told us, "are firm, fixed end dates without respect to who the end user is and what their service is.  Sometimes our customer may only ask for one to two years, while the satellite operator is asking for 7 years.  We should be able to match the same terms as our customer requests.”  

Your transponder may not suffer interference from cross-pol or adjacent carrier interference today, but what about five years into the contract?  Will you have the right to move or end the service if interference becomes so bad that, in your judgment, you can no longer use your capacity?   

Resale Rights 
Some contracts place restrictions on the teleport operator's ability to resell capacity.  It is understandable that satellite operators want protection from competition from their own customers. But some restrictions can severely limit the service provider's options.  A teleport operator with long-term leases and major media customers said that, "We want the ability to resell and use the capacity for video, data, or whatever we want, with or without value-added services.  Reducing the risk as a wholesale buyer, by being able to resell, is my main request.”  

Liability and Indemnification 
Most contracts require the buyer to indemnify the operator against damage due to an act or omission of the buyer.  The buyer may also be required to indemnify the operator against claims or damages by third parties.  Some teleport operators find these uncapped liabilities to be their single largest concern.  "Normally the satellite operators impose liabilities on the contract, uncapped liabilities as a start,” said one executive.  "We don’t want to sign up to unlimited liabilities.  That is the most difficult issue to negotiate, and is very important as far as risk management is concerned.”  

Buyers may not always be able to get the terms they want.  That's a matter of negotiating leverage, which comes down to how much you are buying, in what market, for what purpose, and who you (or your customer) are.  Above all else, our experts stressed the need for clarity.   Buyers need to make sure their operations and their customer's expectations are aligned with what the satellite operator can actually deliver in both best and worst-case situations.  And they can only do that if the contract spells it out in detail.   

Best Practices in Satellite Capacity Contracts is available free to members of WTA and for purchase here on our site.  Read this post and other articles in Satellite Executive Briefing at Satellites & Markets.  

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How seriously do we need to take the laws of physics?

Posted By Robert Bell, Thursday, May 17, 2012

In the Seventies, there were major fears that the world was running out of stuff.   Food, metals, energy resources, you name it.  A 1972 book called The Limits to Growth portrayed a future in which population growth, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion ended in tears unless we learned to curb our appetite for growth.   

In 2001, a Danish statistician and environmentalist named Bjørn Lomborg published The Skeptical Environmentalist.  He made a startlingly different case, based on numbers.  If we are running out of everything, he wrote, then why are the costs of almost everything going down?  The laws of supply and demand say that the scarcer a commodity, the higher a price it will fetch.  But in case after case he presented, the opposite had happened.   

Innovation explains the difference.  We have become much better at finding and extracting raw materials, and at making more efficient use of them.  The global supply of useful stuff keeps expanding because our ability to get at it continues to grow.  

Of course, there are limits, whether to the supply of oil and gas or to the Earth’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases.  There are always limits – but we don’t seem to be very good at forecasting them.   

Which brings me to the laws of physics.  Currently, the number one discussion on WTA’s LinkedIn Group is about bandwidth.  It started when we posted news of Newtec announcing a new speed record by helping Yahsat deliver 310 Mbps over a 36 MHz transponder.  Group members weighed in with questions and answers about the achievement, and a NovelSat executive described delivering 365 Mbps over a 72 Mhz transponder for SES, which helped the company win our Teleport Technology of the Year Award in March.         

This is important work.  Satellite technology can provide high bandwidth capacity to places that no other technology can reach as cost effectively.  It can deliver one-to-many better than anything else.  But the total bandwidth available remains bound by the laws of physics.  Every advance that lets us send more bits per hertz – from frequency re-use to adaptive coding – is of great significance.   

This discussion, however, raised an interesting question in my mind.  Practically speaking, just how seriously do we need to take those laws of physics?  We know there are limits.  Claude Shannon of Bell Labs defined the theoretical maximum information transfer rate of a communications channel, for a particular noise level, and it became known as the Shannon Limit.  His son was a childhood friend of mine and I remember Dr. Shannon as a quiet, courteous gentlemen quite absorbed in his own remarkable thinking process.  I am no more equipped to dispute his Limit now than I was at the age of ten. But I wonder.  In the manufacture of silicon chips, we read every few years that we are coming up against a theoretical limit which will prevent us from squeezing any more transistors or wiring onto that tiny square of high-quality sand.  And every few years, regular as clockwork, we find that the forecast date for reaching that theoretical limit has been pushed a few more years into the future.   

I suspect that, in the back rooms of the technology companies in our membership, there are wild-eyed visionaries conceiving the next impossible bandwidth breakthrough and making it work.  Which means that there are a lot more interesting discussions waiting to happen. 

Tags:  bandwidth  compression  frequency  physics  spectrum 

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"We Are Not Belgacom"

Posted By Robert Bell, Monday, August 1, 2011
Teleports are high-value assets. It takes at least a couple million bucks to build one, and the longer it operates, the more investment is typically poured into keeping it current with the state of the art.  

In every down cycle for the business, teleports are put on the block. There, they can prove to be volatile assets. An operating teleport with a customer base has a lot of value but these are seldom the ones put up for sale. How much is the facility itself worth?  It all depends on market conditions, on the specific needs of the buyer, and on the design, licensing and terrestrial connectivity of the teleport itself. One of the best deals in the industry's history – for the buyer, that is – was the acquisition by SES of the teleports that American Tower accumulated in its Verestar subsidiary before putting the business unit into bankruptcy.  In 2004, SES paid $18 million for 4 teleports and related businesses for which Verestar had spent many, many times that amount.  

All this I knew already when I spoke with Nitin Dhawan, CEO of Belgium Satellite Services, during the SATELLITE conference in Washington.  From him, I learned something new: that teleports have reputations that can outlive their ownership. The name Belgium Satellite Services (BSS) may make you think of chocolate and beer, but Nitin and his team are Indians and BSS is owned by an Indian company, ORG Informatics.  ORG bought 2 teleports near Brussels from Belgacom, the national carrier, with the aim of building out a diversified satellite services business serving broadcast, ISP and enterprise markets.   

After the purchase, however, BSS discovered that it had acquired more than it bargained for. In addition to the facility, equipment and terrestrial interconnects, the teleports also came with a reputation for terrible service. Under Belgacom, satellite ground services were apparently delivered in classic PTT style: minimum effort, maximum bureaucracy and little or no interest in solving the customer's problems. The reputation was bad enough that, when prospective customers learn what teleport will be delivering their service, it can put a chill on the developing deal.   

"We are not Belgacom," Nitin told me, "and the sooner everyone realizes it, the better off we will be."   

Fortunately, while memories can be long in this business, good performance trumps all, and there is always the opportunity to build a new reputation as a high-value asset in the European market. 

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