SES S.A. is a communications satellite owner and operator providing video and data connectivity worldwide to broadcasters, content and internet service providers, mobile and fixed network operators, governments and institutions, with a mission to "connect, enable, and enrich".
SES is one of the world's leading satellite operators with over 70 satellites in two different orbits, geostationary orbit (GEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO). These include the well-known European Astra TV satellites, the O3b data satellites and others with names including AMC, Ciel, NSS, Quetzsat, YahSat and SES.
Based in Betzdorf, Luxembourg and founded in 1985 as Société Européenne des Satellites, the company was renamed SES Global in 2001 and has been simply "SES" since 2006. The company's stock is listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris with ticker symbol SESG and is a component of the LuxX, CAC Next 20 and Euronext 100 stock market indexes.
A book, High Above, telling the story of the founding of SES and the development of its first Astra satellites was published in 2010 to mark the company's 25th Anniversary, and was followed by Even Higher in 2012 and Beyond Frontiers in 2016.
Business and Services
SES provides services through two business units, SES Video and SES Networks, for video-centric and data-centric markets, respectively.
(65% of revenue) SES Video's business comprises video distribution and video services. Video distribution delivers video content via Direct-to-Home, Direct-to-Cable and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) platforms, and includes wholly owned subsidiary HD+, the direct-to-consumer high-definition digital satellite TV platform in Germany. Video services encompasses technical ground services, such as content management, playout, encryption, satellite uplinks and interactive services, to broadcasters worldwide, largely through the MX1 division.
SES has been a major player in the development of the direct-to-home market in Europe and the cable TV and DBS markets in the U.S. SES satellites transmit a variety of digital formats from radio to Ultra High Definition TV (UHD) and the company has been instrumental in defining technical standards for broadcast and interactive media.
In 2018, SES satellites carried over 8,100 TV channels, including more than 2,700 HD and 50 UHD channels, to more than 1 billion people in 355 million homes globally, or regionally as follows:
(35% of revenue) SES Networks provides managed connectivity services to customers in markets including telecommunications, Cloud computing, commercial air and shipping, holiday cruises, energy, mining, and government and institutional areas, with end users of the technology including internet users in remote regions, air and at sea travellers, windfarms, mines, defence and humanitarian missions.
SES Networks includes SES subsidiaries SES Government Solutions and SES Techcom Services, and GovSat, a public-private partnership with 50% SES participation.
Services include capacity-on-demand, and mobile backhaul solutions anywhere on the planet for telcos and Mobile Network Operators, reliable network connections for mining and energy companies in remote occasions, and critical connectivity that is rapidly deployable, even in challenging and remote situations, for 62 government defence, civil, and humanitarian operations in 28 countries.
SES Networks delivers broadband connectivity for maritime vessels in any body of water or port in the world and in-flight services to aircraft ranging from secure cockpit communications to passenger connectivity and entertainment, through providers such as Global Eagle Entertainment, Gogo, Thales and Panasonic Avionics.
SES has pioneered many industry technological developments, including DTH transmission, co-location of satellites, free-to-air broadcast neighbourhoods, digital broadcasting, HDTV and 3DTV. SES has also helped develop innovative reception technology such as the first home dish LNBFs, Universal LNBs, optical fibre signal distribution and the SAT>IP system for receiving and distributing satellite signals over home computer networks.
SES is currently pioneering the broadcast of next generation Ultra High Definition TV (UHD) and helping to establish the international technical standards for UHD broadcast and reception. SES first produced demonstration UHD broadcasts in 2012 and transmitted the first HEVC-standard UHD TV in 2013. A continuous SES UHD demonstration channel is broadcast to Europe from SES’ Astra 19.2°E satellite position and Europe's first free-to-air Ultra HD channel launched in September 2015, broadcast via Astra 19.2°E. As of April 2016, SES broadcasts 23 Ultra HD channels, of which 15 are commercial operations.
SES-8 was the first geostationary satellite to be launched (in 2013) by SpaceX, which has revolutionised the costs of satellite launches. The SES-10 satellite, was launched in March 2017 (delayed from October 2016 due to a pad explosion and subsequent loss of a Falcon 9 booster in September 2016) on the first SpaceX launch with a 'flight-proven' (reused) Falcon first stage, recovered from a previous launch. The SES-12, SES-14 and SES-15 satellites (launched in June 2018, Jan 2018 and May 2017, respectively) are constructed with an electric plasma propulsion system for orbit raising and in-orbit manoeuvres to save weight and enable a larger communications payload to be included. SES reckons that SES-12 would weigh some 4700 kg more with a conventional chemical propulsion system.
SES is the first commercial customer for SIS's future satellite life extension mission, following an agreement in June 2017 with MDA. The SIS craft is being built by Space Systems/Loral (SSL), a manufacturing subsidiary of MDA, for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) programme, and will refuel an SES satellite running low on propellant while still in orbit to lengthen its service life.
SES is managed by the Executive Committee, responsible for running the day-to-day operations as well as for preparing the decisions of the Board of Directors. This was put in place in May 2011 to consolidate the then subsidiary companies, SES Astra and SES World Skies under a new "streamlined" management structure. The SES Executive Committee comprises:
- Steve Collar – President and CEO
- Christophe De Hauwer – Chief Strategy and Development Officer
- Ferdinand Kayser – Chief Executive Officer, SES Video
- John-Paul Hemingway - Chief Executive Officer, SES Networks
- Martin Halliwell – Strategic Advisor to the CEO
- Andrew Browne – Chief Financial Officer
- John Purvis - Chief legal Officer
- Evie Roos - Chief Human Resources Officer
- Ruy Pinto - Chief Technology Officer
- John Baughn - Chief Services Officer
- Stewart Sanders- Executive Vice President O3B mPower
In 2002 the then CEO, Romain Bausch was awarded ‘Satellite Executive 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.
By 1990, Astra was broadcasting to 14 million cable and DTH (Direct to Home) viewers. SES was the pioneer of ‘co-location’ by which several satellites share the same orbital position to provide mutual backup and increase the number of channels available to a fixed receiving dish, creating what became known as a 'satellite neighbourhood'. 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.
In 1996, after the launch of Astra 1E, SES pioneered digital satellite transmission with the French Canal+. In 1998, SES launched Astra 2A 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.
In the same year, SES went public on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange trading as SESG (in 2005 SES would also list on the Paris Euronext).
From 1999 SES began a period of ambitious global expansion beyond its European home market. Geographic expansion went hand-in-hand with the diversification of SES’ services beyond just TV broadcasting, to cover telecommunication services for businesses, telecommunications companies and government customers, as well as broadband access and technical consultancy services.
In 1999, 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. Altogether, SES operated a fleet of 41 geostationary satellites, the largest in the world in 2001.
Further acquisitions followed. In 2003 SES’ stake in NSAB was increased to 75% and in 2005 SES acquired a participation in Canadian satellite operator Ciel and in Mexico's Quetzsat, as well as the divestment from Nahuelsat.
SES acquired services provider, Digital Playout Centre GmbH (later Astra Platform Services, then SES Platform Services, now MX1 ) in 2005. and in 2006 SES also acquired ND SatCom, a German provider of government services, developing a services portfolio beyond just bandwidth provision.
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 commercialise 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 announced its 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").
In 2010, SES grew its stake in SES Sirius to 100% and closed the acquisition of the in-orbit satellite Protostar-2/Indostar-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 organisation'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 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 Guiana, 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 3 June 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 Guiana 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 April 2014, Romain Bausch stepped down as President and CEO of SES, a position he had held since 1995 overseeing the growth of the company from a European Direct-to-home satellite system with four satellites into a global satellite industry leader operating a fleet of more than 50 satellites. Bausch continues to serve SES as a non-executive Director, and is elected to take the role of Chairman at the start of 2015. He was succeeded as CEO by Karim Michel Sabbagh.
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. 23 satellites are controlled from Princeton 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 Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and to connect West Africa to Europe via Ka-band.
On 13 January 2015, SES announced that it plans to procure and launch a satellite in partnership with the Luxembourg Government, to be called GovSat-1. Jointly owned, the satellite will be launched in 2017 to an orbital position above Europe and provide governmental and military communications in the X-band and Ka-band with coverage of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
In February 2016, it was announced that, subject to regulatory approvals, subsidiary, SES Platform Services would purchase RR Media, a global digital media services provider to the broadcast and media industries, based in Israel. In July 2016, SES announced that the acquisition was complete and that the merged company would be known as MX1.
In March 2016, the SES-9 satellite was successfully launched by a Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket from Cape Canaveral after four previous attempts on 24 February 2016, 25 February 2016, 28 February 2016, and 1 March 2016 - all aborted due to weather and launcher problems. The satellite used electric propulsion to reach geostationary orbit and will be positioned at 108.2°E to provide 81 Ku-band transponder equivalents for pay-TV, data and mobility across North east and South Asia, and Indonesia.
In April 2016, SES announced that (subject to regulatory approvals which are expected to be completed by the end of 2016) it will pay $US20 million to increase its fully diluted ownership of O3b from 49.1% to 50.5%, taking a controlling share in the company. In May 2016, SES said it would raise another $710 million to purchase 100% of O3b Networks, exercising a call option with O3b minority shareholders and eliminating the possibility of an O3b stock offering, and then subsequently announced the completion of the capital raising and completion of the acquisition.
In May 2016, Modern Times Group, owner of the Viasat DTH platform announced that the Viasat Ultra HD channel would launch in the autumn on the SES-5 satellite at 5°E, as the first UHD channel for the Nordic region and the first UHD Sports channel in the World. The channel will feature selected live sport events especially produced in Ultra HD and Viasat will also be launching an Ultra HD set-top box from Samsung and a TV-module to enable existing UHD TVs to display the channel. SES claimed the launch of Viasat Ultra HD will bring the number of UHD channels (including test channels and regional versions) carried on SES satellites to 24, or 46% of all UHD channels broadcast via satellite worldwide.
On 30 March 2017, the SES-10 satellite was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket using a refurbished first stage booster that had been previously used to launch a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station for NASA in April 2016 and then landed and recovered. This is the first time that a rocket booster has been reused in this way. Both the Falcon 9 first stage and the payload fairing were successfully recovered after the SES-10 launch for subsequent reuse. SES-10 will be positioned at 67°W to serve Latin America.
In May 2017 SES announced the successful integration with the SES-14 satellite of the NASA Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) scientific hosted payload built by the University of Colorado Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The first scientific payload carried by an SES satellite, GOLD was integrated with SES-14 at Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France ahead of its launch to 47.5°W in late 2017 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
In June 2017 SES announced the start of a 30-month project by the Satellite and Terrestrial Network for 5G (SaT5G) consortium for the seamless, and economically viable, integration of satellite (such as SES' geostationary orbit and medium earth orbit high throughput satellites) into future 5G networks, improving the ubiquity, resilience and efficiency of 5G services, and opening new markets in media distribution, transport and underserved areas. The consortium is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme and comprises 16 members, including SES and Airbus Defence and Space, Avanti Communications, British Telecom, Broadpeak, Gilat Satellite Networks, OneAccess, Thales Alenia Space, TNO, University of Surrey, and Zodiac Inflight Innovation.
In September 2017 SES announced the next generation of O3b satellites and service. Named O3b mPower, the new constellation of (initially) seven MEO satellites built by Boeing Satellite Systems will deliver 10 terabits of capacity globally through 30,000 spot beams for broadband internet services. O3b mPower is expected to launch in 2021.
On 11 October 2017, a flight-proven (refurbished) SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the SES-11 satellite to the geostationary orbital position of 105°W. The launch was originally set for late 2016 but suffered a year-long delay because of SpaceX's September 2016 Falcon 9 explosion. SES-11 was built by Airbus and is a dual mission satellite, with 24 Ku-band transponders marketed by EchoStar as EchoStar 105 to replace capacity on SES' AMC-15 satellite, and 24 C-band transponders marketed by SES as SES-11 for replacement capacity for AMC-18 delivering video, especially HD and UHD, to the US, Mexico and the Caribbean. Following positioning at 105°W and in-orbit testing, SES-11 was declared fully operational on 29 November 2017.
In February 2018 SES teamed up with Intelsat (later joined by Eutelsat in July 2018) for a proposal to US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to form a consortium of satellite service providers to protect the quality and reliability of existing video and audio services to US households downlinking in the 3700-4200 MHz C-band spectrum while enabling wireless operators to access 100 MHz of C-band spectrum for deployment of next generation 5G services in the US.
In March 2018 Saint Martin-based satellite TV provider Kiwisat launched a new DTH platform to deliver about 130 channels (including 90 HD channels) of TV entertainment to consumers across the Caribbean using the SES-10 satellite at 67°W.
In May 2018 SES broadcast an 8K television signal via its satellite system for the first time, as part of its Industry Days conference at the Luxembourg HQ. The 8K demonstration content, with a resolution of 7680x4320 pixels, a frame rate of 60 frames per second and 10-bit colour depth, was encoded in HEVC and transmitted at a rate of 80 Mbit/s via the Astra 3B satellite.
In September 2018, in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking of July 2018 from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz spectrum available for next-generation terrestrial fixed and mobile broadband services, SES, along with Intelsat, Eutelsat and Telesat - together providing the majority of C-band satellite services in the US, including media distribution reaching 100 million US households - established the C-Band Alliance (CBA). The consortium's proposal to the FCC is to act as a facilitator for the clearing and repurposing of a 200 MHz portion of C-band spectrum to accelerate the deployment of next generation 5G services while protecting incumbent users and their content distribution and data networks in the US from potential interference.
In April 2019, four O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites were launched by Arianespace at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana to complete the constellation of 20 first generation satellites for the SES-owned network communications service provider.
In May 2019, for the first time in Europe, 8K demonstration content was received via satellite without the need for a separate external receiver or decoder. At the 2019 SES Industry Days conference at Betzdorf, Luxembourg broadcast quality 8K content (with a resolution of 7680x4320 pixels at 50 frames/s) was encoded using a Spin Digital HEVC encoder (at a bit rate of 70 Mbit/s), uplinked to a single 33 MHz transponder on SES' Astra 28.2°E satellites and the downlink received and displayed on a Samsung 82in Q950RB production model TV.
The following active satellites are owned and operated by SES, as of March 2018.
Future satellite launches
SES is active in the hosted payload market, selling space on planned and under-construction satellites to governments and institutions. SES-2 (launched September 2011) carries the US Air Force's Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP), a wide field-of-view, passive infrared sensor to provide early warning of missile launches, the first time a US Air Force payload has been hosted on a commercial mission. 
The SES-5 and Astra 5B satellites (launched July 2012 and March 2014, respectively) incorporate European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) payloads, a supplementary network to the GPS and GLONASS navigation systems.
SES-15 (launched May 2017) includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) air navigation aid to augment the Global Positioning Systems (GPS), with the goal of improving its accuracy, integrity and availability.
SES, and its subsidiary companies has teleports across the world, including:
- Alexandria, Virginia, USA
- Betzdorf, Luxembourg
- Bristow, Virginia, USA
- Budapest, Hungary
- Emek HaEla, Israel
- Hawley, Pennsylvania, USA
- Herzliya, Israel
- Manassas, Virginia, USA
- Re'em, Israel
- South Mountain, California, USA
- Sunset Beach, Hawaii
- Tel Aviv, Israel
- Unterföhring, Germany,
- Woodbine, Maryland, USA
- Douglas, Isle of Man, UK
SES Government Solutions operates Earth stations at the following US Government locations:
- New Boston
- Thule, Greenland