NEWTOWN, Conn. -- For a time, strong growth in demand for satellite services in Asia benefited Thaicom. In fact, demand was so strong in the mid-2010s that Thaicom faced a shortage of in-orbit capacity for new customers.
However, since 2016, Thaicom has been facing problems. The Asian satellite market remains fragmented, caused by high regulation and intense competition. Many countries in Asia maintain strict regulations, making it difficult for foreign satellite operators to sell services in those countries. Two of the largest markets, India and China, are particularly difficult for outside companies to operate in.
Thaicom has also faced increasing pressure at home from the Thai government. The Thai government's six month delay in approving Thaicom 8 delayed revenue for the company. And the problems have only grown worse since then. Thaicom decided to cancel its contract for Thaicom 9 following a dispute with the Thai government over licensing fees.
Competition also remains fierce in Asia. Local companies, like Asia Broadcast Satellite and Thaicom, compete with global companies like SES SA and Intelsat. Nationally owned satellites, like NBN in Australia and the Insat system in India, increase competition in Asia.
Finally, new technologies are increasing the amount of capacity available in-orbit, thereby lowering the prices that can be charged by all of the companies competing in the market. In particular, high-throughput satellites are able to offer significantly more capacity than traditional satellites. The rising popularity of small satellites operating in low-Earth orbit also threatens traditional geosynchronous satellite operators like Thaicom.
As a result of these market factors, Thaicom is seeking growth in new ways. The company will not acquire a new satellite in 2019, as originally planned. Going forward, Thaicom will order satellites at a much slower pace than in the past. Instead, Thaicom is offering new services, such as maritime broadband connections, to diversify its revenue sources. In addition, the company is considering extending the life of Thaicom 4, either by placing the satellite in an inclined orbit that uses less fuel or by contracting with Maxar or Northrop Grumman for a life extension vehicle.
Even as declining demand reduces the need for satellite capacity and new technology lowers the number of satellites needed to provide services, Thaicom will order a handful of satellites during the forecast period. New satellites will be needed to expand Thaicom's capacity in orbit, so it could continue to offer broadband data connections.