Vue de l'orbite géostationnaire d' ARABSAT-2B à une altitude de 35,800 km (NSSDC/NASA document)


Arabsat is the Arab League’s regional telecommunications network.

The first generation of Arab satellites consists of :

  • Arabsat 1-A sent into orbit in February 1985;
  • Arabsat 1-B sent into orbit in June 1985;
  • Arabsat 1-C sent into orbit in February 1992 to replace 1-A.

The second generation of Arab satellites consists of two satellites. Arabsat 2-A was placed into orbit on 9 July 1996 and Arabsat 2-B on 13 November 1996. This generation widened the range of possibilities which the network already offered. The 2nd generation network offers 34 channels (Arabsat 1 offered 7), an increased transmission capacity for telephone calls (Arabsat covered 16,000 lines) as well as a better connection capacity of the arab network onto the international networks, and last but not least, it has brought in numeric technology, a major innovation.

Arabsat 2 covers a wider geographic area, stretching from Southern Europe to the Indian SubContinent. Arabsat includes among its clients the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and the American Cable News Network (CNN) as well as most Arab television channels which transmit their programmes by satellite.

The lifespans of Arabsat 2-A and 2-B are expected to last until 2012.

The launching of a third generation of Arabsat satellites started on 26 February 1999 with the launching of Arabsat 3-A. This new generation will not replace Arabsat 2 but, being placed next to the previous generation orbital position, will increase the number of channels that the viewers will be able to receive with the same receiving antenna.

All these satellites were built by the French firm Aérospatiale and launched by the European vector, Ariane.

The system is administered by the Arab Satellite Communications Organisation (ASCO), set up in 1975 and linked to the Arab League. This agency is essentially commercial and it is a rare example of succesful collective Arab institutions. All Arab countries have a share in its capital, led by Saudi Arabia (36.7%) of its shares) and followed by Kuwait (14.6%), Libya (11.3%) and Qatar (9.8%).

The Arabsat system has two main liaison stations :

  • The Arabsat headquarters in Riyadh;
  • The Arab Broadcasting Union in Tunis which deals mainly with television programming. It has also set up the Arabvision system in 1975, aimed at promoting programme exchanging between Arab television bodies.