April 18, 2011

Royal Group receives right to launch first Cambodian satellite

[PHNOM PENH POST]

ROYAL Group received a concession to launch Cambodia’s first satellite into orbit, creating what the company sees as another integral step forward for the ASEAN economy, officials said yesterday.

Cambodian Satellite 1 is set to launch in the first quarter of 2013, and cost between US$250 million and $350 million to build and put in orbit, serving phone, television and other multimedia customers, Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng said yesterday.

“It’s trade in the sky rather than trade on the ground,” he said, adding the satellite will benefit ASEAN as a whole, as member states will be able to lease satellite services from the Kingdom, further driving the region’s economy.

The satellite is set to be launched by Royal Group subsidiary Royal Blue Skies, after receiving the concession from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on Wednesday.

Kith Meng said the government is “fully supporting” the project, adding Prime Minister Hun Sen had lent his approval to the efforts.

Royal Group Chief Financial Officer Mark Hanna said that country-to-country business was part of the company’s overall plan for the satellite.

There will be a huge demand for bandwidth coming out of Asia in the future, driven by high-definition television and the internet, and the added capacity via satellite will help meet that demand, he said.

The firm plans to first sell services into the Cambodian market, and then branch out into Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and other ASEAN nations.

“We see it as very positive for the future, but it’s going to take time,” he said.

The satellite’s launch was touted as an important development for Cambodia.

“It gives the country security over its international transmission, communications and everything. So it is very, very important for the country,” Mark Hanna said.

Kith Meng declined to provide details of the satellite itself citing security reasons, but he did confirm that Royal Group was working with a number of manufacturers to build it.

The potential costs would depend upon the final build, he said, adding that Royal Group is working with different sources to generate the necessary financing. A second announcement will be made once that process is complete.

Kith Meng said the satellite will offer Cambodia some autonomy, allowing the Kingdom to operate its own satellite rather than lease services from other providers.

And with Thailand and Vietnam having their own, and Laos intending to launch one, there’s no reason for Cambodia to not have one as well, he said.

“I think it’s the right time for Cambodia to shoot its own satellite in … orbit,” he said.

“It’s good for Cambodia as a nation that we have the ability to launch the satellite. Not just for [Royal Group] but also for the country,” he continued. “And we should all be proud of that.”

Minister of Post and Telecommunications So Khun confirmed yesterday that the concession had been granted, but declined to discuss the matter further.

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