Signatories share their views on the impact of the novel coronavirus on satcom business.
COVID-19 is having a global impact on business and economy. What is your view on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the satcom industry in your country/region? Do you see any new points of opportunities?
Azercosmos: The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the global economy and all businesses, including the market for satellite services. Several global events, exhibitions, and conferences have been cancelled or postponed. This removed our opportunity to meet potential new customers, and, as consequence of the this, the pandemic will probably result in a decline in revenue. On a positive note, demand for video and data services has risen slightly, and services that were intended for a particular group of people in particular areas became more universal. For instance, the telemedicine service, which was first intended for people living in rural areas with no opportunity to visit hospitals is becoming relevant to all of us. Today, even if a person lives in the city next to the hospital, due to the measures on self-isolation, (s)he should not visit it. Instead, it is easier to use telecommunication – telemedicine and arrange online doctor appointments, which allow the potential for an early diagnosis and also allow you to stay at home, avoiding further issues. In Azerbaijan, as in many other countries, distant learning is in high demand and has increased the need for data services and solutions.
Dalkom: The COVID-19 has negatively impacted many businesses especially with limited human movement imposed by local government agencies. The current business customer demand has drastically reduced owing to the change of work from office to homes. However the communication segment has seen high demand for online peer to peer applications. Going forward, the local communities’ trend is embracing more of tele-meeting both in terms of voice and video. This is an opportunity to drive the uptake of satellite capacity to meet these real time applications. For our region with under developed communication infrastructure, video conferencing tele-medicine can only be done effectively via satellite.
NMHH: Although the global economy will suffer from the pandemic, and GDP will fall in most of the countries, we expect the infocom industry suffer less, and the growth will be higher. In satcom industry it might be even better, we see one of the reasons in that the operators have major projects from the governmental sector, like Earth observation, emergency communication, back-up services, which are essential. It is unlikely, that the consumer market would withdraw to a greater extent from the subscription of satellite services, as it was during this period of limited mobility that the importance of content consumption increased. In the Eastern European region, this growth is lower (eg. US has 60%), but also significant, and satellite subscriptions also play an abundant role in this. In our view, the implementation of new satellite systems and expansion of existing ones will be touched more, they usually rely on a significant investment, it will be more difficult to find a source now, so they are expected to be realized at a later stage. There will also be some sectors of the economy that need support for satellite services, but they are particularly disadvantaged by the current situation, e.g. aviation, the shipping market and the oil and gas industry. Larger investments in these sectors will be postponed for at least a year, so satellite systems cannot expect orders either.
Isatcom: The quarantine caused by Covid-19 led to the closure of mining, tourism and cross-border government agencies. That means we have to suspend their services until their activities begin again, it is reduced our company's revenue. If Mongolian satellite communication companies such as Isatcom LLC, Mobinet LLC, Orbitnet LLC and Aurozone LLC work together, there is an opportunity to save total costs.
Laosat: COVID 19 pandemic and its consequence have influence LAOSAT business including domestic and overseas. In Overseas we plan to sign contract for TPEs leasing more in Q1 2020 but postpone until now ,payment collection also , our existing customer cannot pay for TPEs leasing for us from March until now and don’t know how long it will be. Domestic, because Laos is small country with 7 Million population, land-lock country . Effect from COVID 19 in Laos for satellite operator only for payment collection from TV station customers , telecom operators revenue and internet using capacity is increase but not in term of satellite TPEs , only 26 Sites of VSAT using in rural area with fixed TPEs capacity. Anyway the high light of LAOSAT in COVID-19 pandemic is we can provide Education TV channel to Government during the lock-down , using our TPEs and TVPC service +Internet +APP platform to launch Education channel and APP with Ministry of Education and Sport of Lao PDR , that can help teaching and learning activity during children stay at home and we plan to expansion the project in the end of this year. This situation positive side is it can help us to find more customer and new service model in domestic market , also negative side for payment collection because of economics section.
How do you see the role of International Organizations such as Intersputnik in responding to the business and social challenges related to the COVID-19? What practical steps can be done? Business projects? New partnerships?
Azercosmos: International organizations have the ability to minimize the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on business and society. Organisations such as Intersputnik, have always been an excellent platform for members to exchange their views and establish partnerships, which can be the platform, where its members work on mutually beneficial projects to minimize the negative business impacts of the pandemic and help in the economic recovery. Moreover, these types of organisations and partnerships can also be perfect platforms for members to share the measures they took to fight the ongoing COVID-19 and help others to overcome this challenge as well.
Dalkom: Many in-country operators will definitely require handholding as a result of the shock that has come due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bottom lines are eroded and most of the customers (end users may not be able to meet (in full) their currently bandwidth commitment. it is expected to be seen a drop in demand for capacity or in ability to pay for the capacity. In some sector of the economy the demand will still be there but the purchasing power has been eroded. Therefore it will be critical for international operators including Intersputnik to cushion operators by giving deferred payment plans which operators can then Passover to end users as they bring up the businesses to life again. It is time for the international organizations including Intersputnik to go for bundled products with terminal vendors to make the equipment cost be close as possible to competing technologies. These will increase the SOHO uptake as many companies will opt to have employees work from home in the near foreseeable future post COVID-19.
NMHH: As INTERSPUTNIK is in a special situation apart from other international organizations, which are privatized e.g. ITSO, EUTELSAT, we are the opinion that INTERSPUTNIK has more influence to the market situation, than the other organizations, which perform oversight of the companies only. As mentioned earlier, the consumer demand has changed, and as an operator, INTERSPUTNIK can respond these changes as they arise. With home office in most sectors, the demand from business solutions changed to the residential broadband needs, using satellite solutions more. The existing capacities are definitely needed in two sectors: governmental, to fight the pandemic, and in the residential services, to provide reliable communication. In both sectors, the market situation surely bring new projects and new partnerships, with existing terrestrial operators as well.
Isatcom: If the Covid-19 situation continues for a long time, there is a risk that business operations may fail and it will be difficult to repay the loan. In this case, it would be good to get support from Intersputnik, such as freezing the loan and writing off the loan.
Laosat: Refer to currently satellite market situation and LAOSAT business (we also have DTH service and 4G internet service), we plan to put the Satellite Integrated Service in difference customers including domestic market and overseas market, not pure satellites transponders leasing in the past. However TPEs leasing in domestic market can be promote more in government department such as: Ministry of National Defense, Education, Hydro Power and so on, while overseas it look like to do more about Teleport service in Maritime and others.
What happens Next? How do you see the satcom industry in post-COVID era What business activities shall we focus on today in order to prepare to challenges of tomorrow?
Azercosmos: To be a player in the global satellite industry requires the ability to plan your objectives over the long term. For instance, the provision of satellite services and solutions is a long process that takes a time and effort to organize as well as to provide services. With the global events, tradeshows, exhibitions, and conferences being cancelled or postponed, satellite operators lose their ability to meet new potential customers and also their existing customers, this can therefore have a negative impact on revenue in the satcom industry in the post-COVID era. The lesson we learned from this situation is that people have to be ready for the change to their environment. You can be in your workplace today but tomorrow you have to stay at home and maintain the continuity as well as productivity of your work. This applies to all areas of our life; distant learning, telemedicine, online shopping, and many other online services, which become an inseparable part of our life. So, the digitalization of all services where possible is exactly what we have to focus on, to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. The role of satellite technology, telecommunication satellites, data services and solutions particularly, is undeniable. Socially isolated people may stay connected thanks to the means of telecommunications satellites and get uninterrupted solutions to have access to the online network and see what is going on in the world.
Dalkom: To survive the onslaught of other disruptive technologies and economic effect of COVID-19 both equipment and capacity providers need to partner to ensure that solution delivery is affordable to the end-user. In the short term measure, mergers and acquisitions will be prevalent amongst most satcom players. The focus should on delivery the very critical services at the most cost effective way with clear attention to the customer. If the customer is able to stand after the COVID-19 then sitcom operators will also stand. This can be done by introduction of low Capex entry point by deployment of HTS - which has low entry cost.
NMHH: Communications is a relatively flexible sector, so the impact of COVID-19 may not affect as deeply as the economy as a whole. Restrictions of movement during the pandemic, entertainment, and working from home, which may persist in the long run, do not reduce the performance of fixed services. At the same time, the business segment will be declining sharply. Increased unemployment, business suspensions and closures, and a general decline in business activity will also reduce business communications spending. The fixed service segment of consumer revenues will not be dramatically affected by the pandemic. Although the growth of fixed subscriptions will be smaller than forecast, this number will increase. Although some drop-outs may occur due to the potential for retail revenues, however, fixed line access will increase in value, also the number of multiple subscriptions and the traffic of on-demand content will increase.
Isatcom: If Covid-19 continues for a short period of time, we hope that our company's operations will return to normal as other organizations activities becoming stable. Today, we are trying not to lose our current customers until Covid-19 subsides. In order for above companies to work together, it is necessary to expand existing main equipment of Isatcom LLC and decide on the investment required for it.
Laosat: Vision of The ASEAN ICT MASTER PLAN 2020 (AIM 2020) is main drivers for economics digitalization, upgrade population ability in using ICT infrastructure, new technology, information and APP services. Via using ICT including telecom service in term of distance education, training and seminar course, government service, health care, economics innovation. Connect people to people, people to business and related services.