MediaSat to invest €2m in satellite hub


11 Jan 2005

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Broadband satellite provider Media Satellite Ireland (MediaSat) is to invest €2m in its first Irish satellite uplink facility, to be located in Co Cork.

The new facility, which will cost an additional €1m a year to run, will employ 25 people in engineering, technical and customer-support positions. The company aims to have the site operational by the end of the year.

Enterprise Ireland-backed MediaSat has been operating in the satellite broadband market for more than three years. It currently has 500 customers across the country and is the exclusive satellite service provider to Eircom, allowing the telco to offer broadband services to its customers in areas that don’t have DSL coverage.

Until now, MediaSat has provided its broadband services via teleporting centres in mainland Europe, primarily in Luxembourg. Having its own uplink facility in Ireland will, says CEO Rory Fitzpatrick, give it greater control and autonomy. “We’d like more control and greater ability to reflect the nuances of the Irish market as well as give as efficient prices as we can,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

The location for the uplink facility has not been finalised yet but it will, said Fitzpatrick, either be in Cork City or close to it.

He added: “This is something we’ve always looked at doing. Over next year we will ramp up numbers in the West of Ireland and other regions. We expect to have a minimum of 10,000 customers over next two years across country.”

Fitzpatrick said that demand for satellite services would come mainly in areas where DSL is not available and where the only alternative is leased line. “People say satellite is expensive. But it depends on what you compare it to. If the alternative is leased line then I’d say it’s not expensive.”

He said that most of MediaSat’s existing customers were mainly business users but as cost of hardware falls, he expected that the service would appeal to more and more residential users. “A two-way broadband system costs between €1,500 and €2,000 in hardware and €127 a month for bandwidth. To get that €1,500 down to €600 will take another two of three years but it will happen.”

He added that the uplink facility would give MediaSat the platform to offer services to the wider European market as well as to Irish customers. This would be central to the firm’s business development strategy over the coming years, he said. “Our satellite footprint goes from Russia to the Atlantic, from Scandinavia to Africa – that’s the area we’ll be concentrating on.”

A privately held company, MediaSat’s principal investors consist of a number of businesspeople in Cork and Dublin as well as Enterprise Ireland. Fitzpatrick said the company planned to seek a listing on the Alternative Investment Market in London “within two years” to support its expansion plans.

MediaSat currently employs 20 staff at its Cork headquarters.

By Brian Skelly