STRONG demand for private satellite networks by multinational broadcasters has prompted Asia Satellite Telecommunications (AST) to start a US$220 million satellite project. The company, a consortium owned by Hutchison Whampoa, Britain's Cable and Wireless and China Beijing Trust Investment, yesterday revealed plans to expand the proportion of private telecommunication services as against services on television and radio broadcasting in its new satellite AsiaSat3, due to operate by 1998. Most of the satellite capacity in the orbiting AsiaSat2 is used for television and radio broadcasting - 70 per cent of capacity space. Private telecommunications services comprise the rest. The latest plan is to lower the proportion of television and radio broadcasting to 60 per cent, leaving 40 per cent for private telecommunications services with the launch of a stronger satellite, AsiaSat3. The move is spurred by demand by multinationals to establish private satellite network with overseas branches. General marketing manager Sabrina Cubbon said: 'We see a faster growth in the telecommunications sectors and we are expecting a larger proportion of satellite space to be sold to clients for that purpose.' The launching of independent satellite networks by large multinational firms was possible only after the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) cut Hongkong Telecom's International monopoly on international calls last year. This allowed firms to build and operate their own telecommunications infrastructures through licensed 'very small aperture terminals', technology needed for setting up private satellite networks.