Where Coverage is King
In conversation with Mohammed Al-Haj, COO of Kuwait-based Gulfsat, one of the major satellite service providers in the MENA region.
You broadcast more than 40 TV channels including MBC Group’s Al Arabiya news channel and Al Arabiya Al Hadath, among others, from Eutelsat 8 West A satellite at 8 degrees West. What do you believe are the most important factors to keep in mind when working with the broadcast vertical?
Among the emerging technologies in broadcasting today, I believe network convergence plays a major role and is considered as one of the major factors that controls content delivery methods
We need to keep in mind the digital revolution taking place in content production, storing, protecting, delivery and distribution. Among the emerging technologies in broadcasting today, I believe network convergence plays a major role and is considered as one of the major factors that controls content delivery methods.
The second factor is providing monitoring and support services. We need to be able to broadcast a TV channel with 99.98% service availability and clarity throughout the whole year. Simply put, that is the main demand for any TV channel. Lastly, the coverage area is a very important factor for any TV channel to maximise their viewership.
What do you believe are the general challenges catering to the broadcast vertical?
The factors mentioned in the previous response pose some of the biggest challenges for us. Another challenge is understanding the demand in the marketplace and accompanying business dynamics especially given the political situation globally and across the region.
With regard to the recent political situation across the MENA region, what specific challenges have you faced when servicing the broadcast sector?
We have experienced rapid turnover with some TV channels. Because of the current situation, many political and news TV In conversation with Mohammed Al-Haj, COO of Kuwait-based Gulfsat, one of the major satellite service providers in the MENA region channels have joined this sector addressing both sides of the political spectrum – pro-regime and anti-regime. And in the light of the current uncertainties, these new channels pose a risk in terms of continuity, to our sector.
Secondly, we have faced the issue of satellite jamming. The issue again arises from both sides of the political spectrum. Both sides try to find ways to interfere with the broadcasting frequency of the other channel and this poses a technical challenge for capacity providers.
What, in your view, are the significant technological developments that have helped you offer better services or the same services with less effort?
The new video developments in terms of compression, processing and multiplexing technologies have enhanced the video quality and increased bandwidth efficiency and management. In addition, advancements in convergence technology have streamlined the transport layer between the IP network infrastructure and the satellite infrastructure.
Lastly, developments in cloud computing has empowered our approach towards content storage, delivery and distribution.
Given that a number of satellite service providers are offering capacity over the region, what are your views on the competition and how do you plan to stay ahead of the competition?
The competition will continue to increase with the inclusion of new players; but by capitalising on our solid customer base, market relations and proper account management on the one side, and enhancing our competitive services and solutions towards meeting our customer requirements on the other side, we will definitely stay ahead of the competition. Most significantly, the factors that help us stay ahead are our past experience in this field and the long-term strategic alliances with our technology partners and providers.
The broadcast vertical has dominated the satellite industry in terms of revenues. Do you believe this trend will continue?
As of now the broadcast and media vertical contribute a major part of revenues for any satellite operator and it will remain so, as the number of TV channels increase as well as the demand grows to move into the HDTV platform.
However, looking at the future, the new methods of content delivery could reshape the broadcast vertical revenue stream. Future TV includes the move from HDTV to 3DTV, from receiving only to interactive TV (iTV), a TV platform that also integrates internet delivery, mobile streaming, PVR storing facilities, and other over-the-top services