Asian broadband Internet satellite launched

A satellite that promises to deliver broadband Internet access to all corners of the Asia Pacific was launched into orbit early Thursday from the European space port in French Guiana, South America.

The Thai-owned IPStar satellite, also called Thaicom-4, was carried into space on top of an Ariane 5 rocket at 8:20 a.m. GMT. The launch had been due to take place about two hours earlier but was postponed after a problem on the launch pad.

The satellite will provide service through 84 highly focused beams that will cover the region in a similar way that mobile telephone base stations provide coverage. The large number of beams means that frequencies can be reused many times, increasing the total available bandwidth available from the satellite.

“The key concept was to deploy massive frequency reuse similar to what happens on the ground on the mobile phone system,” said Dumrong Kasemset, executive chairman of Shin Satellite Plc. “From that concept the Thaicom-4, or IPStar, satellite was designed to have 40G bps, which is roughly 20 times that of a conventional satellite.”

Kasemset made his remarks at the launch site shortly after the satellite went into space, in a speech that was also broadcast on the Web.

“It means that approximately 2 to 4 million subscribers in 14 countries of the Asia Pacific region will be able to have access to broadband Internet for roughly US$50 a month no matter where they live. Mobile operators will provide voice services to rural areas for roughly $2 per month,” he said.

The satellite’s footprint stretches form China in the north to Australia in the south and from India in the west to New Zealand in the east. Deals to provide service to companies in several countries including India, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Laos and China have already been announced.

The satellite will now undergo about two weeks of maneuvers that will put it into its allotted position in space, and then a month of in-orbit tests. It is scheduled to be handed over for commercial operation in late September or early October.