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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Telecom Satellite Firm Plans Massive Order

The nation's No. 1 telecommunications satellite operator is close to choosing two foreign companies to supply transponders and other components for seven spacecraft that it plans to launch into geostationary orbits in the next five years.

The Russian Satellite Communications Co. is set to announce this month that it will buy transponders for its planned fleet of seven Express-A telecommunications satellites from NEC Corp., Yokohama, Japan and Paris-based Alcatel Espace, said a RSCC official.

Transponders are devices that relay radio signals by receiving them and then emit a radio signal of their own.

The official, who asked not to be named, said in a recent telephone interview that RSCC will procure more than 150 transponders worth some $200 million for the seven Expresses, which will be assembled by the nation's leading satellite manufacturer, the Scientific Production Association of Applied Mechanics, or NPO PM, based in Zheleznogorsk, Western Siberia.

This fleet is to include two Express-A satellites, two Express-AYa satellites and three Express-AM satellites, said Alexander Biryukov, head of RSCC's commercial department.

The RSCC official would not provide any estimates of how many transponders NEC and Alcatel are set to manufacture. He did reveal, however, that RSCC also plans to order onboard computers for the seven satellites and VSATs, or very small aperture terminals, and other "ground equipment" from NEC in addition to transponders.

The official said both NEC and Alcatel have already submitted bids to manufacture transponders for the planned Expresses. He said both offers provide for transponders to be supplied to RSCC free of charge in exchange for profits that RSCC expects to earn from leasing capacities at the seven satellites.

The seven-strong fleet is to be deployed by 2005 to provide the nation with telecommunications services, including television broadcasting and Internet access, Biryukov said.

He said the company's profits totaled some $38 million last year, but would not provide any estimates of how much the company might make from the planned Expresses.

The official said he was confident that RSCC will be able to find customers for all of the more than 150 transponders that it plans to rent out.

The nation already needs about 250 transponders to meet its satellite telecommunications needs, RSCC chief Boris Antonyuk said at a roundtable on telecommunications at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in St. Petersburg last month.

However, Yury Koptev, director general of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, said the nation needs some 180 transponders, and has only 86 functioning. Transponder needs will grow by another 40 in the near future, Koptev said at the forum.

NEC has already supplied VSATs used by Russian organizations that lease transponders on RSCC's existing fleet of 11 telecommunications satellites. That fleet is made up of eight outdated Gorizonts and three Express satellites, Koptev said.

Among these organizations is the Central Bank. Most of the bank's operational 550 VSAT terminals have been manufactured by NEC, the bank's deputy chairman, Mikhail Senatorov, said in a recent interview.

Reached by telephone, a spokeswoman for NEC's office in Moscow, Tatyana Dedus, said the Japanese corporation's chances of winning RSCC's order for transponders are "high enough."

Alcatel Espace spokeswoman Nancy Lang said in a telephone interview from Paris that her company is in talks with NPO PM to provide "payload" for Express-A satellites. She could neither confirm nor deny, however, that this payload might be supplied in exchange for future operative profits or not.