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Interview with Yuri Izmaylov, RSCC Acting Director General. APSCC newsletter, Summer 2005

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RSCC, the Russian national satellite communications operator, has been completing the Program of renovating its satellite fleet aimed at manufacture and launch into geostationary orbit of five new generation Express-AM satellites. RSCC Acting Director General Yuri D. Izmailov tells about the Program execution outcomes and outlooks.

RSCC has been implementing the Program of renovating the satellite fleet in the context of the Federal Space Program of Russia from 2001 to 2005. The purpose of the Program is securing the orbital and frequency resource of Russia as well as replacing the obsolete Gorizont and Ekran-M series satellites that went beyond their service life. Thus, this is not only a commercial project but first of all the state one, dedicated to meet the growing demand of the Russian customers for high-quality and reliable communications services and to strengthen the positions of Russia in the world satellite communications market.

Following the Program implementation RSCC has practically fully renovated its own space constellation enabling the quality and reliability of services rendered via the Russian satellite fleet to be significantly enhanced. For the time being, the satellite constellation comprises 9 up-to-date spacecraft of Express-A, Express-AM series, as well as Bonum-1 satellite, located in geostationary orbit from 11 West to 140 East.

The task of primary importance for us is providing domestic state and commercial companies with communications and broadcasting services. However, that are the new Express-AM satellites which allowed RSCC to become more competitive in the world market since the renovated space constellation provides flexibility of covering the territory from America’s eastern coast to Australia and permits us to provide services in C- and Ku-bands worldwide, virtually at any point. The Express-AM steerable beams are completely intended for foreign markets.

A high interest to our services and their competitiveness in foreign markets are proved by the fact that sales to foreign customers make about 40% of the total sales volume.

We have a long-standing and versatile partnership with Eutelsat. RSCC renders services on control and monitoring of 10 Eutelsat satellites as well as leases out the Russian beam capacity on W4 satellite. Eutelsat has leased 12 Express-AM22 transponders from RSCC.

I would like to stress that RSCC’s co-operation with foreign companies has significantly expanded in the last two years. Our commercial offers based on new Express-AM satellites are of great interest to European telecom operators. A number of West-European and Asian companies are rendering services using our satellite capacities.

 In 80 E and 96.6 E orbital slots, the Express-AM2 and Express-AM11 satellites have already been operated mainly to provide services for Russia. The Express-AM3 satellite (140 E) has large potential for providing services in Asia-Pacific region. Express-AM3 satellite has a large fixed footprint covering not only the Far East of Russia but the territory of China and Mongolia. In addition, Express AM3 steerable beams give an opportunity to provide satellite communications services in C and Ku bands across almost all territory of the Asia Pacific region.

Renovating a space constellation is impossible without modernization of terrestrial infrastructure. To improve the reliability of operating new spacecraft RSCC deployed its own up-to-date unified Ground Control and Monitoring Center to control the Express-A and Express-AM satellites. At present, the Express-A and Express-AM satellites are completely operated from RSCC own ground facilities.  For in-orbit tests,   transponder monitoring, and Earth station testing a Mission and Satellite Communications  Control System is established.

The new Ground Control and Monitoring Center allows us to monitor and control the satellite operation continuously, to predict and analyze failures, to react quickly to worst-case situation and to monitor payload performances and their operating quality as well. Control and monitoring reliability is increased due to using the most advanced control and monitoring devices as well as through a direct close control by RSCC over the Center’s personnel efficiency.

Within 1.5 years, the RSCC teleports have advanced to the East. We have set up new teleports in Siberia and in the Far East of Russia, Zheleznogorsk and Khabarovsk space communications centers, thus enabling the satellites in the eastern orbital slots to be operated and monitored.

The relations between RSCC and ChinaSat, two state satellite communications operators, have been developing since 2001. Two years ago, we established a working group on satellite communications, the main task of which is facilitating access of Russian and Chinese customers to technical facilities of both companies. As a result, a contract on establishing a corporate network via the RSCC satellites for one of the Chinese companies in Russia was signed. A number of Russian broadcasters pay interest to using Chinese satellites. All this is a solid basis for developing our relationships.

In the last meeting we discussed the perspectives in the field of mutual providing satellite communications and broadcasting services on the territory of Russia, China and the third countries. The documents signed during this meeting provides the customers of RSCC and China SatCom with a more convenient access to their satellite capacities and earth station facilities for establishing communications channels between the territory of Russia and China. This agreement permits RSCC to offer the customers a turn-key solution for deploying telecommunications and TV channels between our countries. In their turn, Chinese broadcasters planning broadcasting across Russia can apply directly to ChinaSatcom and get a commercial offer for RSCC services.

In addition, the satellite communications market of India is of great interest to us. This February, we started commercial operation of the Express-AM1 satellite, which has got with a fixed beam covering the territory of India and neighboring states. On the second day after putting Express-AM1 into operation, RSCC organized a space bridge with Sri Lanka for the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The shaped antenna provides for a stable communication in Ku-band between South Asia and Europe, which is an ideal technical solution for data transmission, Internet access, telephony, and video conferencing.

If we address the statistics, the figures show that TV and radio broadcasting makes up more than one third of the RSCC’s  total service volume. More actively our co-operation with VSAT-operators and Internet-providers develops.

Last year we significantly increased the range of services rendered. We pay much attention to applying space technologies in educational processes and distant medicine. RSCC developed a Mobile telemedicine unit with digital medical equipment and a satellite communications station. In addition, we started providing services to foreign broadcasters for transmitting reports using our own Fly Away Unit from Russia to any point worldwide from the eastern part of America to Australia which evokes a great interest abroad.

Satcom industry incorporates all the latest world trends. Our business does also take account of the world economy globalization. For the time being the new Express-AM satellites are developed in the framework of international cooperation of leading space system manufacturers. The cooperation between RSCC and foreign satellite communications operators, teleports and system integrators has being evolved more actively.  The strategic partnership allows us to introduce new services and to broaden the geography of their providing. Today we speak more often about convergence of companies and technologies. There is no doubt that the future joining the WTO by Russia will be of great importance for this process giving a new impetus to cooperation with foreign companies and opening new potentials to RSCC for providing broadcasting services worldwide.

We have developed the program of renovating and maintaining the satellite fleet till 2015. The contracts for manufacture of Express-AM33 and Express-AM44 satellites have been concluded with NPO PM and Alcatel Space. These are more powerful and multi-purpose satellites that can be positioned at any slot of GEO. One of them is supposed to be used for the Asia-Pacific region.

In the new program we venture to look to the future and plan to use high-elliptic orbits. This will permit us to develop new business line in providing broadcasting and communications services in the North latitudes. On the basis of the existing ground infrastructure we consider the possibility of using space technologies for the Earth remote sensing. This represents an important opportunity for RSCC to develop as a commercial operator.