SES S.A. is the satellite owner and operator based in Betzdorf, Luxembourg and is listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris.
SES is the world’s second-largest telecommunications satellite operator by revenue and operates a fleet of 54 geostationary satellites able to reach 99% of the World’s population. These satellites provide satellite communication services to businesses and government agencies, and broadcast TV and radio channels to audiences worldwide. SES satellites carry more than 6,200 TV channels (including over 1.800 in high definition) and more than 40 direct-to-home (DTH) platforms across the world. By the end of 2013, SES satellites reached 291 million TV homes worldwide, comprising 106 million DTH satellite homes, over 153 million cable homes and over 32 million IPTV homes.
Originally founded in 1985 as Société Européenne des Satellites, the company was renamed SES Global in 2001 and in 2006 renamed SES. SES is a pioneer in many important industry developments. In 2007 SES was named 'Satellite Operator of the Year'.
SES was formed on the initiative and support of the Luxembourg Government in 1985 as Société Européenne des Satellites (SES). The Luxembourg State remains a major shareholder. In 1988, as Europe’s first private satellite operator, SES launched its first satellite, Astra-1A, to the 19.2° east orbital position. Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV, along with German broadcasters Pro7, Sat.1, and RTL were among Astra’s first major customers.
In 1990 Astra was broadcasting to 14 million cable and DTH viewers. SES was the pioneer of ‘co-location’ by which several satellites share the same orbital position to provide backup and increase the number of channels available to a fixed receiving dish, creating what became known as a 'satellite neighborhood'. Astra's prime slot, 19.2° east, saw as many as eight satellites sharing the position simultaneously and helped to build up Astra’s reputation for reliability.
Rapid growth in Germany, in what would become Astra’s largest European market, was helped by the German government’s decision to liberalize the installation of dishes in 1991. In this time SES became the leading satellite system providing direct-to-home transmission, and became the world’s largest satellite platform for TV distribution.
After the launch of Astra-1E in 1996, SES pioneered digital satellite transmission with Canal+. SES launched Astra-2A in 1998 for the UK market, transmitting at the new orbital position 28.2° east, and eventually moving all of its UK and Ireland transmission capacity to this orbital slot.
Also in that year, SES went public on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange trading as SESG.
From 1999 SES began a period of ambitious global growth beyond its European home market. In the same year SES acquired a 34.13% stake in Hong Kong-based satellite operator AsiaSat and took a foothold in Asia and the Pacific region. A year later, SES acquired 50% of Scandinavian satellite broadcaster Nordic Satellite AB (NSAB), later renamed SES Sirius, which strengthened SES’ coverage in northern and eastern Europe. The same year, SES also took a participation of 19.99% in Brazilian satellite operator Star One, gaining a first presence in Latin America.
In 2001 SES bought 28.75% of Argentina’s Nahuelsat and acquired GE Americom, giving it a solid presence in the important North American market. This resulted in the formation of SES Global, a corporate entity with two operating companies, SES Astra and SES Americom. In 2001 SES operated a fleet of 41 geostationary satellites, the largest in the world.
Further acquisitions followed. In 2003 SES’ stake in NSAB was increased to 75% and in 2005 SES acquired participation in Canadian satellite operator Ciel in Canada and in Mexico’s QuetzSat, as well as the divestment from Nahuelsat in Argentina. SES acquired services provider, Digital Playout Centre GmbH aka Astra Platform Services and now SES Platform Services.
In 2005 and 2006 SES acquired ND SatCom, a German provider of government services, developing a services portfolio beyond just bandwidth provision. Later on, in 2010, EADS Astrium purchased 75% of the stakes of NDSatcom from SES Astra.
In 2006 SES acquired New Skies Satellites, later renamed SES New Skies, adding six satellites to the SES fleet and strengthening coverage in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
In 2007 SES divested from its holdings in AsiaSat and Star One in a complex transaction with General Electric which itself divested from SES.
In 2008, SES increased its stake in NSAB to 90% and merged its two international operating units, SES Americom and SES New Skies into a new segment, which was branded SES World Skies in September 2009.
In 2009, SES and Middle East satellite operator Yahsat announced the formation of a joint venture, YahLive to commercialize 23 Ku-band transponders on Yahsat-1A, serving the Middle East, North Africa and South-West Asia with direct-to-home TV services.
Also in 2009, SES made a 75 million USD cash investment in O3b Networks a project to build a Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellation to deliver high-speed, low-latency, fibre-like internet broadband trunking to the world's emerging regions ("the Other 3 billion").
O3b Networks operates nowadays a constellation of 12 HTS (High Throughput Satellites) in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) around 8,000 km’s from the Earth. The company offers customers a ‘fibre in the sky’ solution, with each of the constellation’s beams capable of delivering up to 1.6 Gbps of throughput at a low latency of less than 150 milliseconds, a significant improvement over geostationary connectivity.
O3b started its operations in September 2014 and became the fastest growing satellite network company in history. O3b serves more than 40 enterprises, mobility and Government clients across 31 countries. O3b’s global customer base includes Digicel Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, American Samoa Telecom, Speedcast, Rignet, Bharti Interntional (Airtel), Timor Telecom, CNT Ecuador, Entel Chile and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In 2010, SES grew its stake in SES Sirius to 100% and closed the acquisition of the in-orbit satellite Protostar-2, renaming it SES-7 and integrating it into its fleet covering India and South East Asia.
In May and September 2011, SES restructured and rebranded the company to streamline the organization’s activities under a single management team and one main brand (SES), incorporating the company’s two previous operating entities, SES Astra and SES World Skies.
In August 2011 the Astra-1N satellite was launched to the Astra 28.2°E orbital position, and in September the QuetzSat-1 satellite was launched to 77°W.
In February 2012, SES-4 was successfully launched to become SES' 50th satellite and the largest, heaviest and most powerful in the fleet. In July 2012, SES-5, the 51st SES Satellite was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan to 5°E with 36 Ku-band transponders to provide coverage over Sub-Saharan Africa and the Nordic and the Baltic regions in Europe, and 28 C-band transponders for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
In September 2012, Astra-2F was successfully launched from Kourou in French Guyana, the first of three "next generation" satellites at the second Astra orbital position at 28.2°E. The satellite has Ku-band coverage of all Europe, the British Isles and sub-Saharan Africa for DTH television, and Ka-band coverage of Central Europe for the SES Broadband satellite internet service.
SES-6 was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on June 3rd 2013 to 40.5°E, to replace NSS-806 and provide continuity of service and expansion capacity in C-band for Latin America and the Caribbean. The satellite has 43 C-band and 48 Ku-band transponders with comprehensive coverage of North America, Latin America, Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.
Astra-2E was launched to the Astra 28.2°E position from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on 30 September 2013 to provide free-to-air and encrypted DTH digital TV and satellite broadband services for Europe and the Middle East. The successful launch followed a 10-week delay due to the postponement of all launches by launch services provider ILS after a catastrophic failure of the rocket in a previous launch.
In March 2014, Astra-5B was launched as SES' 56th satellite to the Astra 31.5°E position from Kourou in French Guyana to provide transponder capacity and extend geographical reach over Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States for DTH, direct-to-cable and contribution feeds to digital terrestrial television networks.
In July 2014 SES announced that nearly half of the SES satellite fleet is controlled from the new satellite operations center (SOC) opened at its sales and engineering offices in Princeton, New Jersey, USA where 23 satellites are controlled with the remainder operated from SES’s global headquarters in Luxembourg.
Astra-2G, the final "next generation" satellite for the Astra 28.2°E orbital position was launched from the Baikonur in December 2014 to deliver broadcast, VSAT and broadband services to the EMEA region, and to connect West Africa to Europe via Ka-band.
On January 13th, 2015 SES announced that it plans to procure and launch the SES-16/GovSat satellite in partnership with the Luxembourg Government. Jointly owned, this satellite will be positioned at 21,5° E and is scheduled for launch in Q2 2017.
SES-16/GovSat is a multi-mission satellite using dedicated military frequencies (X-band and military Ka-band) to provide high-power and fully steerable spot beams for multiple government-specific missions. The satellite will cover Europe, the Middle East and Africa. SES-16/GovSat, will be built by US satellite manufacturer Orbital ATK, Inc.
In April 2016 SES increased its interest in O3b from 49% to 50,5% to have a controlling share in the company. In May 2016 SES announced to take full control over O3b to purchase 100% of the stakes.
www.spacenews.com (edition 16 November 2009)
www.azernews.az (edition 27 Nov 2014)
www.businesswire.com (edition 29 April 2016)