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Space


Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite (APMT)

China APMT is mainly engaged in Chinese aerospace system engineering, international trade, international business service and international business operation, act as the platform of developing space technology application industry and modern service industry internationalization for CALT. APMT was initially a Singapore-based, PRC-controlled consortium. At least 51% of APMT was owned by PRC Government agencies, including China Aerospace Corporation, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General, and Chinasat, a subsidiary of the PRC Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.

China APMT has an international professional operation management and project management team with rich experience in international cooperation and strong capability in systems integration and multiple years of service experience. The products and services of China APMT including export of whole satellite, launch service, satellite communication system integration, ground communication system integration, import of mechanical and electrical products, international trade agency, business consultation and planning and satellite operation service etc..

The Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite (APMT) consortium, in which Chinese participants initially held two-thirds equity, was formed in December 1995. APMT was a regional mobile satellite project providing seamless mobile telecommunications services, through National Service Providers in each country, in the Asia Pacific region via a geostationary earth orbit satellite system and a network of ground gateway stations. The services were to include voice telephony, facsimile and data transmission. Communication was via handheld, vehicular or fixed-site terminals. Frequent business travellers in the region were also expected to use APMT for roaming purposes. Coverage would be available from India in the west to Japan in the east, and from China in the north to Indonesia in the south. The system was expected to have 400,000 subscribers and be profitable within two years of inaugurating service in 2000. APMT would sell mobile telephony services at a wholesale rates of $0.30 to $0.50 per minute, with resellers in each country retailing the service at $0.70 to $1.00 per minute.

Participants in the US$640 million consortium included China Satellite Launch & Tracking Control General, China Aero-Space Corporation, China Unicom Satellite Telecommunication Co Ltd and China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite Corp., along with Singapore Telecom and Singapore Technologies Telemedia. APMT services would be administered by Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunications (APMT) Satellite Pte Ltd, a company incorporated in Singapore. Subsequent to the formation of APMT the consortium was joined by Asia Mobile Telecommunications (Thailand) Co.,Ltd., a subsidiary of the Telephone Organization of Thailand [TOT]. With new partners the proportion of investors taking part in APMT included 50% from the People's Republic of China, 25% from Singapore, 10% from Thailand and 15% from other countries to be determined. In early 1998 ST Telemedia assumed Singapore Telecom's share when the company withdrew from from the project.

Initially PRC entities had at least a 51 percent share in the international consortium that made up APMT. PRC entities involved included China Aerospace Corporation, China Launch and Tracking Control General, Chinasat, a subsidiary of the PRC Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and UNICOM, the PRC's second telephone network. Originally, two Singaporean companies, Singapore Telecommunications, Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Telemedia, owned twenty-five percent of APMT.94 In 1998, however, Singapore Telecommunications pulled out of the APMT project, stating that the project no longer met its business requirements. Thailand was also listed by Hughes as an "other" shareholder in APMT. In 1998, Hughes reported that the shareholders for APMT included:

  • China Aerospace Corporation
  • China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology
  • China Satellite Launch & Tracking Control General
  • China Communications Systems Co. Limited
  • China Resources Holdings Co. Ltd (PRC)
  • Communications Authority of Thailand
  • Telephone Organization of Thailand
  • China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite Corporation
  • China Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite Co. Ltd.
  • Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.
  • Sunburst Technologies Investments Pte. Ltd. of Singapore
  • Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan
  • NTT Mobilecommunications Network Inc. of Japan
  • Future Hi-Tech Co., Ltd. of Thailand

In the early 1990s, APMT held a competition among satellite manufacturers for a regional mobile communications satellite system that would use 50,000 small, portable handsets similar to cellular telephones. The system called for a communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit, which would transmit communications between handsets or rout them through "gateways" into the local telephone network. Hughes and Loral competed for the Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications (APMT) satellite, and Hughes was awarded the contract.

In 1996, Hughes requested an export license from the Commerce Department for the APMT satellite. If approved for export, the APMT satellite was to be launched on a Long March 3B rocket from the PRC.101 Hughes' design proposal, as originally submitted to the Commerce Department, included two HS 601 satellite buses with a 12-year design life. The satellites were to be equipped with a 40 foot L-band antenna.102 The license was originally approved by the Commerce Department in 1996.

In April 1998, Hughes submitted a second license request to the Commerce Department due to changes in the satellite bus design. Hughes wanted to use the more powerful HS-GEM bus, in place of the HS 601, which would have permitted them to achieve design commonalities and hence production efficiencies with another satellite sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The design change for the UAE satellite was the result of a requirement by Hughes' Thuraya satellite customer, who wanted to reduce the power used by the handsets when transmitting. This required an increase in the sensitivity and power of the satellites and their antenna. The original contract also called for two on-orbit satellites. This was modified to one on-orbit satellite and one spare satellite.

APMT ordered a turnkey system from Hughes that included one satellite, one spare satellite, five gateways, one network operations center, one satellite operations center, and an initial purchase of 70,000 user terminals. Each satellite would handle 16,000 simultaneous duplex circuits, from users in China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines. The satellites are high-power versions of Hughes' top-selling, body-stabilized spacecraft, the HS 601. Each would have two solar wings covered in gallium arsenide solar cells generating about 7 kilowatts of power to provide 6 kilowatts of payload power. The Hughes geomobile satellite system featured an innovative, lightweight, 12.25-meter deployable antenna, and onboard digital signal processing and beamforming. The first satellite was to be available for launch in the year 2000 [initially the the first satellite was scheduled to be launched in late 1998].

The APMT program was one of the few commercial communications satellite programs that remained strong despite the Asian financial crisis. Projections of an oversupply problem for Asia, and an accompanying plunge in transponder lease rates, appeared before the 1998 recession began. Asian currencies fell, as did demand for new satellite capacity. This oversupply was compounded when India did not pass legislation as expected to open their nation to the direct-to-home satellite market. That failure left some Asian satellites with empty beams aimed at India. Additional questions arose during this time about whether there are sufficient customers for these satellites to earn revenue. The Asian market was flooded with transponder capacity, creating a buyers' market. At least ten Asia-Pacific region communications satellite programs have been deferred due to the economic crisis. These include the Measat 3, Agila 3, AsiaSat 4, Thaicom 4, LSTAR 1, LSTAR 2, and the M2A communications satellites.

When the handsets in the proposed APMT system are used, even for handset-to-handset conversations that are not bounced off the satellite, copies of the transmissions are downloaded to a central ground station. This capability was typically required of most satellite communications systems. Only Iridium, which uses inter-satellite cross-links, does not downlink its communications to a ground station. This downlink would allow the PRC to monitor the communications of APMT's users across the Asian region.

Unlike previous communications satellites, this satellite used a very large antenna array, which has raised concerns that the satellite could be used not simply for telecommunications, but also for space-based signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection. This would give the PRC the capability to eavesdrop electronically on conversations not only in the PRC, but also in neighboring countries. Since the APMT satellite's antenna array was significantly larger than any that has been provided to the PRC by any nation, it was likely that the PRC would seek to exploit the APMT design for a future PRC SIGINT satellite.

The 40-foot antenna, which uses a truss-like outer ring and mesh reflector surface, was the unique aspect of the APMT satellite design. It led to concerns that the PRC could use the APMT satellite for signals intelligence collection against a wide spectrum of communications. The satellite, however, was designed to collect and process only communications in the same bandwidth as was allocated to the handsets. Communications satellite antennas are designed to receive their own frequency and reject all others. To do otherwise would add unnecessary expense and complexity to the satellite. In an attempt to reduce interference from other satellites using the same frequency bands, the APMT satellite antenna will use "left-hand circular polarization" which gives its signals a unique signature. The satellite will not collect other signals that use right, vertical, horizontal, or no polarization. These factors thus limited the satellite's ability to engage in signals intelligence to the collection of information transmitted by APMT system users. That volume of information, however, could be substantial.

Yet another concern with Hughes' proposed APMT sale was that it could help the PRC learn about the deployment of large antenna structures. This could assist the PRC in the development of future reconnaissance satellites. Mechanisms used to deploy large antenna systems have been protected from PRC scrutiny in the past. Visual access to the satellite, as well as the risk of unauthorized discussion with engineers such as has occurred in the past, could give the PRC access to this sensitive technology for the first time.

Other concerns have been raised about the participation of the son of a PLA general in the program's technical interchange meetings. The complex relationship between the Shen family and the Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications (APMT) satellite has raised concerns about the possible use of the satellite for military intelligence purposes, and the possibility that technology discussed in the technical interchange meetings would be transferred to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

In May 1994, PLA Lieutenant General Shen Rongjun, the Deputy Director of the People's Republic of China Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), traveled to the United States and attended several business meetings with Hughes. Gen. Shen's responsibilities at COSTIND included the acquisition of satellite systems for the PRC. During this visit to the United States, General Shen's son, Shen Jun, who was living in Canada at the time, attended a business lunch with his father where he was introduced to Frank Taormina of Hughes. Taormina would later assist Shen Jun in obtaining a job at Hughes.

General Shen had been an advocate at COSTIND for purchasing Western satellites for the PLA, especially since the PRC's domestic satellites began failing in the early 1990s. Based on his position and responsibilities, Gen. Shen was directly involved in the decision to choose Hughes to work on the APMT program.

On February 24, 1999 the United States rejected the $450 million Hughes satellite deal with China, blocking for the first time a satellite license to Beijing over fears it could compromise US national security. The decision, which further strained diplomatic ties between the two countries, put into doubt future satellite sales in the lucrative multi-billion dollar Asian satellite market.

Milestones

  • March 27, 1998, China Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite Co., Ltd. (China APMT) was established in China with registered capital of 529 million Yuan.
  • May 8, 1998, Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite PTE LTD (Singapore APMT) was established in Singapore with registered capital of $ 125 million. China APMT owns 51% shares.
  • Year 2000, According to the national regulations about military enterprises to be transferred to local authorities, all shares and the respective capital invested by original National Defense were transferred to China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) which has become the substantial shareholder of China APMT.
  • November 2002, the first time China APMT brought in strategic investor Longxin Clique, the registered capital of China APMT raised to 180 million Yuan.
  • August 22, 2008, China APMT accompanied China National Space Administration to visit Laos, and signed the "China National Space Administration and the Department of the Lao Prime Minister's Office of Science and Technology as to space science and technology cooperation framework agreement."
  • December 8, 2008, China APMT successfully passed the quality management system external audit and obtained the Quality Management System Certification.
  • December 2009, China APMT completed the stock restructuring. CALT and its three subordinate enterprises acquired the shares of China APMT owned by the shareholders beyond CALT. China APMT has become wholly-owned and holding subsidiary of CALT.
  • February 25, 2010, China APMT, China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) and the Lao National Authority for Science and Technology (NAST) jointly signed “Lao satellite radio communication system construction project business contracts” in Vientiane.
  • May 2011, foreign trade service and relevant personnel of other subsidiaries have been placed to China APMT by CALT, which greatly enhances its import and export business capacity.
  • September 2011, China APMT was determined by the CALT as the platform for international cooperation, and was authorized to promote aerospace products and technologies overseas.
  •  July 3, 2012, China APMT successfully passed the Quality Management System external audit and obtained the (GJB9001B-2009) Quality Management System Certificate.




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Page last modified: 08-08-2016 19:53:54 ZULU