Satellite operator Eutelsat is readying 7 degrees east
longitude as its second major European 'Hot Bird' position, where it will offer
rates at less than one-third of its competitors' prices.
The company's first step will be to transmit a package
of at least eight, and possibly 16, free-to-air digital channels via a transponder that
could be functioning within 30 days.
Eutelsat already transmits about 500 digital-video channels
from its existing 'Hot Bird' spot at 13 degrees east.
Eutelsat director general Giuliano Berretta said
transponder-rental prices at seven degrees east, via Eutelsat's W3 satellite, could
be some 35 percent lower than current rates.
"Eutelsat will be actively supporting this
venture," Berretta said. "These 16 channels, together with a multimedia
offering, would make [satellite-master antenna television and cable] installation very
much easier with transmodulation made easier for the installer."
He did not specify which channels would be included, but it
is understood they would be drawn from major news and other free-to-air services.
Eutelsat, owned by a consortium of European telcos, is also
expected to replace its Hot Bird 5 satellite, built by French satellite-builder Matra
Marconi. That satellite is known to be suffering technical problems.
The operator is also boosting coverage over Russia, Africa
and India, with new and recently launched satellites at 36 degrees east. Two satellites
are on the ground, awaiting launch to the 36 degrees east orbital position. Sesat's
(Siberia-Europe Satellite) Baikonur Cosmodrome launch was delayed after the facility was
closed this summer due to a Proton rocket failure.
Eutelsat W4 has been ready for some time, pending
clarification of financial guarantees from Russian broadcasting group Media Most and the
easing of political tensions.
"The situation with Sesat is good and we are working
with the Russians for a launch in November," Berretta said. "As far as Russia is
concerned, we are dependent on the political uncertainty being resolved, and we still plan
on launching later this year or early 2000."