China, France Agree to Joint China Unicom-Eutelsat Belt Road Satellite Venture

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to China has resulted in the French Eutelsat Communications signing off a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China United Network Communications Co., Ltd, (China Unicom). The MoU is aimed at the fast-growing satellite communications market in the Asia-Pacific, and comes under the framework of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

The MoU, which was signed on January 9 by Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat and Xiaochu Wang, Chairman of China Unicom, is designed to leverage resources on the EUTELSAT 172B satellite to enhance in-flight connectivity services across an area stretching from the West coast of North America to Asia, and down to Australia. Cooperation to further develop satellite communication services across the globe is also under consideration. Eutelsat was built by Airbus.

Commenting on the agreement, Rodolphe Belmer said: “China Unicom is an ideal partner for promoting satellite communications in Belt and Road regions. This agreement builds on the cooperation that started in 2008, when Eutelsat provided satellite transmission services to China Unicom during the Beijing Olympic Games. This cooperation also highlights the quality and reach of Eutelsat’s in-orbit resources, in particular at the 172° East orbital position. This reinforced partnership will allow both companies to leverage on their own strengths in order to address future opportunities in the connectivity markets.”

Founded in 1977, Eutelsat Communications is one of the world’s leading satellite operators. With a global fleet of satellites and associated ground infrastructure, Eutelsat enables clients across video, data, government, fixed, and mobile broadband markets to communicate effectively to their customers, irrespective of their location. Over 6,700 television channels operated by leading media groups are broadcast by Eutelsat to one billion viewers equipped for DTH reception or connected to terrestrial networks. Headquartered in Paris, with offices around the globe, Eutelsat employs over 1,000 personnel.

China Unicom is a Chinese state-owned telecommunications operator in China. China Unicom is the world’s fourth-largest mobile service provider by subscriber base.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates comments “This deal shows exactly how foreign companies can get involved in big ticket infrastructure developments under the Belt & Road banner. Both Eutelsat and China Unicom are highly strategic businesses with strong Government connections, yet using that political will wisely results in greater communications capability to connect people in both remote areas as well as inflight. Suppliers to both companies should be looking at how to approach the new opportunities this deal can be expected to bring and examine the consumer market that can be expected to grow with this new coverage.”


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