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Issue 8: Historical Overview - Palapa Satellites re: PT TELKOM

The Journey of TelKom in Operating Communications Satellites to Serve the Indonesian Archipelago


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This paper is available in Bahasa Indonesia

Improvement Period

As a result of the development of terrestrial transmission systems in Indonesia's western region (i.e. the microwave terrestrial system spanning Sumatra and fiber optic backbones in Java), the number and capacity of earth stations in Sumatra and Java decreased. In some cities, there is no need to have earth satellite stations, because the traffic is routed through terrestrial facilities.

In the period after 1990, TELKOM then mainly optimized its earth stations. The traffic demand in eastern Indonesia could be fulfilled by relocating earth stations from Java or Sumatra. When used for lower traffic, smaller dishes became more common in order to reduce space as well as for convenience in relocating and transport to remote areas. In addition, TELKOM also replaced the analog satellite transmission systems by digital systems.

The FDM/FM system was replaced by TDMA Medium Bit Rate and Low Bit Rate at the beginning of the 90's. The Medium Bit Rate TDMA system was implemented in 36 earth stations and Low Bit Rate TDMA was implemented in 30 earth stations. In 1995, a new digital system for point to point communications came up, and TELKOM replaced high traffic links between cities that were using TDMA with Intermediate Data Rate (based on 2 Mbps). Then, FDMA was fully cut off by end of 1996.

For TV distribution, TELKOM started to implement the MPEG-2 digital system in 1996, and all analog television distribution facilities in TELKOMs satellites were completely digitalized by 2000. By doing so, TELKOM was able to reduce television transponder requirements by at least three quarters with the same quality compared to the analog system transponder requirements. In 1996, TELKOM also started to provide Satellite News Gathering service. The SNG van is shown in Figure 3a.

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Fig. 3a. TELKOM's SNG

Broadcasting Period

While TELKOM expanded its network using digital technology for telephony and cellular trunking, in the year 2000 TELKOM introduced DTH (Direct To Home) using a C-band satellite, i.e. TELKOM-1 by utilizing 3 extended C-band transponders. This service is provided by a subsidiary company of TELKOM, namely PT INDONUSA. Technology wise, DTH by (extended) C-band can perform appropriately using an 1.2 meter (4 feet) receive only antenna as shown in Figure 3b.

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Fig. 3b. One-way satellite Internet access
with 1.2 meters antenna receive only

In the mid 1990's, when Internet in Indonesia started booming, satellite usage was increasing for IP connections. This was largely due to the limited availability of cable and telephony (twisted copper wire) networks for Internet access. The increasing demand for Internet connections caused a sharp increase in the use of VSATs based on the Internet protocol. In early 2000, TELKOM also introduced one way high speed satellite Internet access for mitigating the limitations of dial-up connections. The satellite network is also used for widening the coverage area of Internet services. We can conclude that technology migrations took place in TELKOM as can be seen in Figure 4.

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Fig. 4. Technology migration in TELKOM's satellite network

3. The Development of TELKOM's Satellite Services

Starting as the pioneer in satellite technology and services, Indonesia (TELKOM) is more experienced compared to its neighboring countries. This has led to such countries as Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia utilizing Indonesian satellites for their own domestic purposes. PALAPA B2P, which was the satellite intended for domestic and foreign leases, did very good business. Broadcasters (CNN, ESPN) were utilizing the PALAPA B2P and people in the footprint of PALAPA B4 could also receive their programs.

In 1993, the government started to deregulate the satellite business by approving a private company partly owned by TELKOM. PT Satellindo became a satellite operator in addition to being a cellular operator with a license from the government. The PALAPA B2P and its customers were handed over by TELKOM to the new company. After 1993, TELKOM was operating two satellites: PALAPA B2R and PALAPA B4 and continued to market its satellite business.

In this time period, however, neighboring countries without satellites, started to build their own national satellites. Thailand has Thaicom, Malaysia has MEASAT and also Asiasat based in Hongkong. This development is visible in Table 3 where domestic and foreign leases in 1995 are about 35% of total transponder utilization, down from 55% in 1992.

After the TELKOM-1 satellite was placed in orbit in 1999, TELKOM did intensive efforts to market its capacity for transponder leases, satellite transmission links and television distribution. The result of this activity is shown in Table 3 where, starting in 1999 there is a (small) decrease for internal use and an increase in domestic leases. With this increase TELKOM's satellites have become the dominant support for domestic satellite networks including the VSAT banking (data) network. To date, almost 25,000 VSAT nodes supporting almost 75% of the banking sector data network are pointed to TELKOM's satellites.

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Table 3. Percentage of TELKOM's satellite utilization for internal, foreign and domestic lease usage.

To respond to service demand, TELKOM also changed its strategy to fulfill customer needs by segmenting its customers. By doing so, TELKOM is able to focus on its customers and new satellite business services (called TELKOMSatellite), divided into 4 categories as follows:

  • TELKOMTransponder: transponder lease for partial and full transponders either full-time or occasional use.
  • TELKOMSLDTS are services for connecting between two or more locations using the satellite network.
  • TELKOMBroadcast are services offered to broadcasters in distributing their programs all over Indonesia from their master station and vice versa.
  • TELKOMTeleport are services in providing earth stations for uplinking any information from TELKOM premises.

4. Future Development

Considering Indonesia's geographical characteristics and its goal to lessen the "digital divide," using satellites with their unique features is the best technology solution to serve any telecommunication requirement with fast deployment. In order to provide the best service and price to its customers with high availability, satellite managers have found it necessary to reduce costs by performing efficiently in utilizing transponder capacity through the use of new coding and advanced modulation techniques.

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Fig. 5. Road map of market, services and technology

The above strategy will be implemented in all 4 product categories as stated in Section 3, where the road map is shown in Figure 5. From the market perspective, TELKOM has to anticipate changes in "operator" to "consumer" relationships and the technologies associated with serving the market.

5. Conclusion

TELKOM has proven that the satellite communication technology can be deployed quickly and is very flexible for reconfiguration. Almost 30 years of TELKOM's experience in satellite based services have brought many benefits to the country such as increased geographical penetration, teledensity, information distribution and Internet access. Therefore, further use of satellites for Indonesia's development and customer satisfaction has become a strong commitment of TELKOM. As a full network and service provider, TELKOM is also relying on satellite networks to provide a total solution to its customers. Satellites are also very powerful as gap fillers and for providing emergency solutions when terrestrial links are experiencing problems.


  1. *TELKOM is PT. TELEKOMUNIKASI INDONESIA Tbk. a public company listed at NYSE, LSE and JSE (Jakarta Stock Exchange)

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