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Technology focus > Satellite Digital TV Europe July 2014 Satellite states Slovenian teleport operator STN, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has been focusing on the Middle East and African market as a key growth opportunity. Sales and marketing director Mitja Lovsin talked to Stuart Thomson about the compa- ny’s activities in the region. jamming has been a Satellite key problem across the Middle East and Africa, with governments fre- quently resorting to the activity to block chan- nels with content they would prefer their pop- ulations not to see. Recently, Ethiopia has attracted the wrath of global news channel providers for blanket jamming of signals on the Arabsat platform. Satellite services provider STN, based near Ljubljana, Slovenia, which has been active in supplying satellite services to channel providers targeting the Middle East for a number of years, is turning to uplinking channels out of range of the jammers in order to avoid the problem. To get round the challenge posed by deliberate dis- ruption of satellite signals, STN plans to uplink to Eutelsat’s forthcoming 8WB satellite at 8° West for the Middle East from a location that is beyond the reach of the jammers. STN has reserved a transponder on the new Eutelsat satellite. Eutelsat 8WB will also host services for MBC and Al Jazeera, though these channels will not use STN’s capacity. The 7°/8° West position is a hotspot for the Middle East and North Africa, used jointly by Eutelsat and Nilesat to deliver over 800 Arabic and international channels. The ability to uplink to this position from outside the range of jamming equipment is, according to STN, a major boon for broadcasters looking to pro- vide uninterrupted feeds to DTH homes. “Jamming affects the uplink frequency,” says Mitja Lovsin, sales and marketing direc- tor at STN. “It doesn’t help to jam the down- link. If you can’t see [the channel] you can’t jam it.” Lovsin says that uplinking remotely is “the only technology available that can prevent this problem”. In addition to serving a wide range of cus- tomers from its Ljubljana facility, STN already has experience of uplinking from remote loca- tions. The operator currently uplinks from Maryland in the US to the Galaxy-19 satellite for North American coverage, backhauling the content across the Atlantic via fibre. STN has been active in the Middle East for a number of years, and was the first service provider to uplink to the Yahsat platform. However, this initial foray into the market was discontinued after about half a year, primarily, says Lovsin, because of a mismatch between the company’s client base and the type of channels demanded in the region. “It didn’t work for us after six months because we did- n’t have enough HD customers,” says Lovsin. Despite this temporary setback, STN has continued to focus on the Middle East market which has since emerged as “been a huge suc- cess” for the company, says Lovsin. In addition to international channels target- ing the Middle East, growth from within the region has been significant as channels prolif- erated in the wake of the Arab Spring from 2011. The vast majority of channels are free-to- air and a significant number have little visible means of support in terms of a viable com- mercial model. “A lot of Middle East channels Mitija Lovsin of STN. are political,” admits Lovsin. “There are also a lot of channels that are religious, which is very important across the region.” He cites the example of a customer that provides a Ramadan channel that is now distributed globally. The providers of these channels, he says, are “not in it for the money”. African focus In addition to its strong focus on the Middle East, STN has also recently turned its atten- tion to the African market, with uplinks to satellites including Intelsat’s IS-20, SES-5 and Spacecom’s Amos-5. “There are many oppor- tunities in Africa,” says Lovsin. STN began working in Congo nine years ago for a customer that subsequently folded, leading to a financial loss for the company, but it has been involved in other ventures since then. Lovsin says that it is important to ensure that businesses are solid before making sig- nificant investments in infrastructure in emerging markets. “We have had to be careful and decided to go into Africa exclusively with reliable part- ners,” he says. Current customers in the region include China’s StarTimes, for whom STN provides services for the distribution to sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa. STN uses Ka- band capacity to uplink to SES-5 for the plat- form, with on-board conversion to Ku-band for the downlink. This innovative solution enabled the company to get round a shortage of Ku-band uplink frequencies, while main- taining Ku-band downlink. Lovsin says there are still opportunities to be had in DTH distribution in Africa “but it is getting crowded”. Overall, for STN, the Middle East and Africa have both proved to be extremely fruitful regions in which to build a specialised knowledge. ● Visit us at 10