Sats filling Mideast sky

It looks as if the next few years are going to see far more regional satellite broadcast and telco capacity over the Mideast sky than anyone can possibly use.

Soon after Egypt signed a $158 million deal in October with a consortium led by France’s Matra-Marconi for a bird called Nilesat, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that it shortly would be inviting bids for two separate sat projects.

These high-fliers are in addition to the already operational Arabsat, which is a joint venture among broadcast and telecommunications authorities of member states of the Arab League.

UAE’s telecom corporation, Etisalat, said that it expects to issue international tenders for its first satellite in early 1996, called Emarsat. Its cost is estimated at about $250 million.

Bidders are expected to include Matra-Marconi, and the U.S. firms Hughes and Martin-Marietta.

Emarsat is expected to be launched in 1998. It will be used to transmit TV programming and telecoms with a range extending from the Eastern Atlantic Ocean to Iran.

The second sat on the UAE’s agenda is for a bird called “El Thuraya,” which will have a range extending across north Africa and most of southern Asia.

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