2400% increase in Mid-East HDTV

Northern Sky Research (NSR) predicts a spectacular 2400% increase in the number of HDTV channels over the Middle East and North Africa between 2007 and 2017. That could be a miracle given that there’s barely an hour’s worth of HDTV on air over the region.

This jump equals, says NSR, an average annual growth rate of 38% over the 10 years examined. “Some years will see more HD channels launched, some fewer, but this is equivalent to an average of 13 new HD channels carried on satellite each and every year between now and 2017. In general, the satellite industry would consider the Arabsat slots at 26.0 and 30.5 degrees East and Nilesat's 7.0 degrees West as the three main video broadcasting locations for the Middle East & North Africa. Further, add to this Eutelsat's Eurobird-2 satellite at 25.5 degrees East and of course the "Nilesat-103" satellite is none other than Eutelsat's Atlantic Bird-4 satellite, which is used by several other broadcasters for the Middle East & North Africa besides Nilesat.”

In its forecast, NSR predicts that by 2017 there will be an average of 4.1 HD channels broadcast per leased transponder. At first glance this may not appear to be a major increase over a ten-year forecast period given that it is commonly accepted today that three to four HD channels are easily carried per transponder using MPEG-4 compression.

“Nilesat's new Nilesat-201 satellite will add some marginal, yet important, new Ku-band capacity, and Arabsat's planned -5A satellite should at least triple the available Ku-band capacity at the operator's 30.5 degrees slot. Further, Arabsat has several additional satellites in the works. Other operators active in the region will be adding new capacity at existing slots such as on Eutelsat's planned W3B and W7 satellites, and SES will increase capacity at its 23.5 degrees East slot, which can address the Middle East & North Africa. And, of course, Yahsat will bring substantial new C- and Ku-band capacity to the region at its 52.5 degrees East slot starting as early as late 2010.”

All in all, says NSR, accommodating HD channel growth for the Middle East & North Africa will be challenging but appears to be actually well within the realm of the available capacity existing or planned for the region. HD growth statistics are impressive for the entire satellite industry around the world, but it always pays to carefully examine what the numbers mean and put them in perspective of actual and planned capacity.