SES Reports Satellite Fleet Status and Planned Launches

Satellite operator SES S.A. has released its Q3 2014 results and along with the results, an update on its satellite fleet and its planned launches.

SES reported available satellite capacity in North America was reduced by five transponders compared with Q3 2013 due to the reduction of the AMC-6 payload following the solar array circuit failure in Q1 2014. AMC-16, a satellite wholly contracted to EchoStar, experienced further power degradation. No reduction in commercial capacity on other SES satellites due to additional circuit failures occurred during the quarter.

The ongoing U.S. government sequestration was blamed for a reduction in the utilization rate against the previous year from 73.4 percent to 71.0 percent. Available international satellite capacity increased by 33 transponders compared to the previous year's quarter reflecting the ASTRA 2E Africa beam's entry into service along with SES-8 entering service early in 2014.

SES is scheduled to launch ASTRA 2G later this month, completing the replacement program for the 28.2/28.5 degrees east longitude orbital position. Four additional launches are scheduled in the next three years: SES-9 in the first half of 2015 serving the Asia-Pacific region; SES-10 for Latin America and SES-11 for North America in the second half of 2016; and SES-12 for the Asia-Pacific region in the second half of 2017.

SES-11 will carry 24 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders (36 MHz equivalent). The Ku-band capacity will replace SES's existing satellite at 105 degrees WL where EchoStar has been SES's anchor customer since 2014. The C-band payload will provide replacement capacity for AMC-18 at 105W, which will be redeployed to a secondary mission over North America.

SES's reported it holds a strategic interest in start-up O3b Networks, which is operating a medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellation of super-high throughput satellites. The lower orbit provides lower latency and greater flexibility than geostationary satellites. Customers include Royal Caribbean Cruises, Timor Telecom, and Norfolk Telecom.

For SES S.A. as a whole, YTD Q3 2014 revenue increased 2.1 percent (4.7 percent at a constant exchange rate) and EBIDTA increased 4.0 percent (6.0 percent constant exchange) compared to the prior year period.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.