Telenor planning for Thor 7
Chris Forrester

Following directly on after Thursday’s spectacular Ariane launch in Kourou of Thor 6, Telenor Satellite Broadcasting’s CEO Cato Halsaa says he and his Oslo team can now start looking at the options for Thor 7.

Halsa says Telenor has a few options, especially now that they have the comfort of a successful launch behind them. Thor 6, along with the other mainstay of the TSB fleet, Thor 5, are already more than 80% full, and the recent ‘win’ of UPC’s central European DTH business means that Thor 6 and its 1 deg West location can begin to look like a certain eastern European ‘hot spot’.

TSB already had some pre-planning ‘long-lead items’ work undertaken with Orbital Sciences, as an insurance in case of operational problems with Thor 6. Those items now die as far as Thor 7 is concerned, and those items will be cancelled, said Halsa. “Those parts were frequency-dependent so cannot be used. Some people have guessed that these were early items for a Thor 7 craft, but they’re not.”

He explained that TSB had been very successful with its marketing of Thor 6, and that capacity sales on both Thor 5 (“the fill position is excellent”) and Thor 6 had gone significantly better than anticipated. Bandwidth had been booked at a faster rate than TSB’s own business plan had predicted, he added. Halsa said the fill-rate on the pair was now better than 80%.

“Intelsat [which shares capacity from 1 deg West and which they market as Intelsat 10-02] is also doing pretty well with its sales efforts. As satellite operators we are both looking at how we can get more capacity at 1 deg West, and how best to use, and maximise the advantage of the existing capacity and position we already have. We have built the slot up over 15 years and now have several DTH platforms with us. We are not quite SES but we need to attract new customers and have capacity to offer.”

Halsa said that adding this new capacity would take two-to-three years, and the company is now looking very closely at the satellite options available. Halsa said he expected to conclude those options, and with approval from the Telenor board, submit a Request for Proposals to the industry by Q1 or Q2 of 2010. “It is no longer impossible, or crazy, to think about a smaller satellite to add to the fleet, but a larger craft has the obvious lower cost on a per-transponder basis, so those are the questions we are asking ourselves.”

Telenor has 11 Ku-band satellite frequencies as yet unexploited at 1 deg West, as well as Ka-band filings. One option would be for a joint approach between Telenor and Intelsat to look closely at the amount of datacom (and non-broadcast) traffic they were carrying and to examine the possibility of moving some of those contracts. “This is never easy, but there are some options open to us,” he explained, adding that some were receptive. Ka-band also figures in TSB’s satellite options. “If the Gods are with us, as well as our shareholders, then we can now move rapidly forward.”