Operators Opinion Satellite

ABS eyes emerging markets from Americas to Pacific Islands

CEO's personal aim for the company is to become the fifth largest operator among rising economies
Tom Choi, CEO, ABS

What is your vision for the company?

My goal for ABS is to become the fifth largest satellite operator serving all the emerging markets from South America to the Pacific Islands.

My goal for ABS is to become the fifth largest satellite operator serving all the emerging markets from South America to the Pacific Islands

We hope to become an alternate supplier of capacity to the traditional players by bringing a combination of lower-cost capacity and customer tailored solutions. We wish to continue to bring new innovations to our industry including not only more affordable space segment capacity but also innovative ground solutions. We care deeply about the economic viability of our customers, so we envision a long-term and mutually symbiotic relationship with our customer partners. We will never compete with our partners for their business.

What are your specific goals for 2013?

Since ABS’s inception in 2006, we have become one of the fastest growing satellite operators in the world, averaging over 30% year-on-year growth. We have four satellites in orbit serving customers from Asia to Africa from three premium locations at 3°W, 75°E and 116°E. The fifth satellite, ABS-2, is scheduled for launch in the late summer of this year. We have also procured two Boeing 702SP all-electric propulsion commercial satellites. These will be named ABS-3A and ABS-2A, and are planned to launch in 2015.

Over the coming months, we are working to secure pre-commitments for the expansion slots for new satellites. We are also considering making further investments of additional satellites over the next few years to continue our global expansion. This will increase our global coverage and allow us to gain access into new markets.

What were your achievements in 2012?

Last year was truly a year of expansion for ABS. We took a strategic move to solidify our global expansion plan with the procurement of two Boeing 702SP all-electric satellites, and confirmed two associated shared launches on Space X Falcon 9 rockets.

The multi-party agreement with Satmex and Boeing is one of the most innovative partnerships we have ever made.

The all-electric propulsion satellite will allow us to save 50% of the bi-prop fuel and up to 50% of the wet mass or launch mass

The all-electric propulsion satellite will allow us to save 50% of the bi-prop fuel and up to 50% of the wet mass or launch mass. This dramatic reduction in weight and launch cost is the most exciting component of this transaction. Investing in all-electric satellites allows us to bring down the cost of CAPEX by 40% hence, creating opportunities to get better economical launch scenarios. Both Satmex and ABS will be using these satellites to expand our networks and diversify our revenues. These additional assets will increase our current fleet to serve the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

In November, Ex-Im Bank approved the authorisation of two transactions aggregating USD 461 million to finance our expansion. These funds underwrite the export of American-made satellites and American launches for ABS. These funds will finance the purchase of the ABS-2 satellite from Space Systems/Loral, and the purchase and launch of two Boeing satellites on Space X launches. The pair of transactions will support approximately 3,700 US jobs, according to bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology.

We have also completed a major investment in upgrading our global operations including ground infrastructure and playout facilities across our teleports. This expansion of our global facilities will enable us to offer a richer portfolio of services to ensure best-value solutions for our customers.

What surprised you in 2012?

The biggest surprise of 2012 for us was the positive reception that we received from around the world for our commitment to the new Boeing 702SP satellite platform, which will be dual-launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9. This was in a partnership with Satmex where we committed to four satellites and two launches, which heralded a new generation of low-cost, all-electric satellites. These satellite platforms will reduce the in-orbit delivery cost of transponders by 30-40% and it will mean a big competitive advantage to both ABS and Satmex. This news took the industry by storm and we received a lot of praise from our peers for our daring efforts.

What would top your wishlist as CEO?

ABS has a significant challenge in growing its operations, so I hope that we are able to grow while maintaining the personal touch and care that we’ve always strived to offer our customers. As the numbers of transponders and beams as well as the time zones of our customers increase, we are installing new systems in both information technology and human resources to cope with the challenge. This will not be easy as you can imagine.

Additionally, as we explore new markets I hope we will find new partnerships, which will be as successful as our others have been in our core markets. We strongly believe in forging partnerships on a foundation of trust, respect and mutual benefit, so I am hopeful that many others share this philosophy.

Finally, as we are living in uncertain times with many of the developed markets straining under economic difficulties, I hope that these problems do not spill over into the emerging markets and hinder their growth. There are many areas of the world where large parts of the population are suffering in poverty. History has shown that the combined forces of economic and telecommunications development result in a rising middle class. We hope strongly to play an important role in bringing affordable telecommunications to the developing world.