Abu Dhabi's first spacecraft is ready for the transmission of high-definition TV channels across the region
Abu Dhabi satellite all set to star
A satellite owned by Abu Dhabi is to start broadcasting high-definition television programming to the Arab world and beyond by the end of the year.
Yahsat, Abu Dhabi's first commercial satellite company, is in talks with major media companies in the region to start carrying TV stations on its Y1A satellite, which blasted into orbit in April.
The satellite is expected to beam television and telecommunications signals to more than 20 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Tareq Abdul Raheem Al Hosani, the chief executive of Yahsat, said the company was in talks with TV broadcasters with a view to carrying their channels on the satellite.
"For the broadcasting, we have some channels already signed and some are lining up. So it's just a matter of finalising contracts," he said. "We are targeting all the major broadcasters."
Yahsat is in talks with Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) - which broadcasts channels such as Dubai TV, Dubai One and Dubai Sports - about routing its channels through the Y1A satellite, Mr Al Hosani said.
Yahsat is also in talks with Abu Dhabi Media, which owns channels such as Abu Dhabi Al Oula and the Abu Dhabi Drama Channel, and also owns and publishes The National.
"Our first launching customer from the region will be Dubai TV," said Mr Al Hosani.
"The rest of the channels are following. All the major players will be part of the satellite, plus some additional new ones." Ahmad Al Shaikh, the managing director of Dubai Media Incorporated, confirmed talks were under way concerning beaming all of its channels over the Yahsat satellite.
"We are talking about it," said Mr Al Shaikh, but he added that no agreement had been finalised.
The main satellites broadcasting TV signals to the region are Nilesat and Arabsat.
However, Mr Al Hosani said that increasing appetite for high-definition and 3D broadcasts made the Yahsat satellite a viable alternative.
"People are demanding high definition, better quality and service, and with 3D coming in soon, [existing satellites] don't have the capacity to grow.
"That's where Yahsat comes into play," he said.
Television viewers wanting to tune in to the Yahsat-delivered broadcasts will have to re-angle their existing satellite dishes or buy new ones, Mr Al Hosani said.
The satellite will be able to broadcast between 80 and 200 channels, depending on how many are HD and 3D, said Mr Al Hosani.
"We've already started our experimental transmissions, and the official launch will be very soon, once we have enough channels to start the bouquet," said Mr Al Hosani. "Before the end of this year we will have it operational."
Yahsat also plans to offer consumer broadband services, with subscription prices starting at about US$30 (Dh110) a month.
Yahsat is due to begin offering commercial internet services after it launches its second satellite. The launch is scheduled for early next year.
"It's around the month of February, but there's no real hard commitment," Mr Al Hosani said of the second launch.
A third satellite is also under consideration, but this has not been confirmed.
"We are always looking to grow the business," said Mr Al Hosani.
"We have the capabilities and the assets to launch a third satellite, but the decision is still under evaluation."
Satellite-TV allocation and high-speed broadband are two sources of revenue that will help offset costs of up to $1.6 billion for Yahsat's first two satellites.
The company is a subsidiary of Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.