French-based Arianespace, which has launched satellites for telecommunications company Singtel, is optimistic about demand for its services in the Asia-Pacific, given the increased need for communications infrastructure in rural regions.
This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of its regional office opening here, the company is launching a record six satellites for Asia-Pacific customers. Of the six, one is for India, one for Australia, two for Japan and two for Indonesia.
Indonesia, in particular, is a "key market" for Arianespace as there are "specificities in the region that will drive demand for satellite solutions", according to senior vice-president in charge of sales and business development Jacques Breton. "With satellites, you can distribute data over a large area," said Mr Breton, who spoke at the Raffles Hotel on Tuesday during a visit to Singapore.
"In Indonesia and South-east Asia, there are large areas that have not had access to mobile telephones... as these spread to such areas, initially the traffic coming in will not be very intense," noted Mr Richard Bowles, managing director of Arianespace Singapore. "The easiest and most cost-effective solution is to have a station with a satellite dish in the initial years," he added. The firm has launched 73 satellites for 16 Asia-Pacific customers from 11 countries since 1981.
The region accounts for 25 per cent of global business for Arianespace, which has a 60 per cent global market share for commercial launches.
"We see in this region budgets put in place for military programmes... the satellite has its place in these programmes," Mr Breton added, citing countries such as Australia, South Korea and Japan. "It is probable there will be more military satellites due to the geopolitics involved in this area."
Arianespace said that in designing its new Ariane 6 launcher for a 2020 first flight, it focused more on reducing costs instead of technological improvements.
"Ariane 5 was driven by technology and developing more efficient engines... now, we are facing strong competition. We have to reduce cost and Ariane 6 was designed with cost in mind," said Mr Breton.
"The next challenge is to go from improvements in technology to the most affordable launch solution."