Nigeria: NIGCOMSAT-1R Launched

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Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited, Timasaniyu Ahmed- Rufai, spoke to Amaka Eze, on several issues affecting the information technology industry in Nigeria, global communications satellite industry and the recent launch and in-orbit positioning of NigComSat-1R.

Q: The presence of NigComSat -1R in space will mark the end of disillusionment on Nigeria's sustainable presence in the global communications satellite industry, what's your take on that?

A: The successful launch and in-orbit positioning of Nigcomsat-1R is indeed a giant leap by Nigeria in the global communications satellite industry. It is a hybrid satellite with footprints in thirty African countries, parts of Europe, parts of Asia, which has placed it as a force to be reckoned with globally.

However, quickly note that government's venture into commercial space (communication satellite) is to set the country firmly on the part of acquiring a major backbone for improving the nation's information and communication infrastructure. This gave birth to the launch of the company's first African satellite, NigComSat-1. The satellite operated for 18 months before it was de-orbited in November 2008.

However, with the launch of NigComSat-1R and the In-Orbit-Delivery (IOD), it is our strong conviction that it will surpass its average life span of 15 years and with the plans to launch two backups (NigComSat-2 and 3) in view of the success of NigComSat-1R, the satellite will mark the beginning of Nigeria's sustainable presence in the global communications satellite industry.

Q: What benefits will Nigerians especially the telecoms and broadcast industry derive from NigComSat 1R?

Q: NIGCOMSAT-1R satellite is a strategic communication infrastructure, which will be utilised to provide the various communication solutions for Nigerians. The benefits of the satellite to Nigerians flow from the services to be provided through the satellite in both the downstream and upstream sectors. In the upstream sector, the company is concerned with leasing of bandwidth, trucking services and the provision of satellite networking, operation and management services.

In the downstream, the Company's business objects include telecommunications, broadcasting, provision of broadband Internet, tele-education, tele-medicine, E-government, E-commerce, real time monitoring services, navigation and global positioning services. In simple terms, the satellite would be used to provide affordable and excellent Internet and Direct-To-Home (DTH) broadcast services to Nigerians.

Therefore, the current build up of these facilities for broadcast and telecommunications through the state of the art integrated system deployment and co-location with submarine cable owners at the shore of Africa will have a far reaching impact in achieving telecommunications, broadcasting, the Internet, real time monitoring services in Africa including transforming Nigeria from just being a consumer of satellite bandwidth to a provider.

Q: What are the business opportunities that will be open to new entrepreneurs? How true are your claims that the commercial launch will enhance business in Nigeria specifically, and Africa in general?

A: The successful launch of the insurance replacement satellite has strongly signalled Nigeria's determination to be a significant player in today's fast globalising knowledge and technology-driven world. For instance, NIGCOMSAT Direct-To-Home Project, which has been completed and will soon be commissioned by Mr. President, is meant to provide platform and open up media business services in Africa for Direct-to Home TV broadcasting entrepreneurs and new entrants in Nigeria and Africa in general with revenue potential of over $10 Million dollars per annum.

There are other business opportunities that will be open to entrepreneurs through the launch of NIGCOMSAT-1R in telecommunication and broadcasting operations. In telecommunication, we are talking about voice and data services for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). For example it is a well-known fact how the emergence of companies like MTN, Etisalat and HiTv have stimulated economic growth in the country. Entrepreneurs also have the opportunity to utilise the satellite for tele-medicine services in remote areas, to mention but a few.

Of course, the launch of the satellite will stimulate business in Nigeria and Africa. The satellite being a Nigerian satellite ensures easy access to the satellite services for Nigerians and Africans. As more Nigerian and Africans are utilising the satellite in their business enterprises, invariably, it would lead to increased business activities.

Q: The launch of undersea cables by some companies has not really reduced internet cost, what difference is Nigcomsat-1R bound to make as a satellite in space?

A: Thank you for painstakingly identifying the infrastructural gap between the consumer and the undersea cable providers. The launch of undersea cables by some companies implies that we have adequate capacity along the shores and continental shelf of Africa but these can't translate to reduced internet cost because we grossly lack national, sub-regional and regional carriers of digital links with cross-border inter-connectivity especially in African hinterlands.

Communication demands projections driven by variants of terrestrial wireless systems such as GSM, CDMA, WIFI, and radio systems require the need for robust and active infrastructure build-out in and around Africa to address the growing demands for information and communication services especially broadband services. Satellite systems in space come in handy as a means of closing on the huge infrastructural gap including backhauling, sustenance of Africans modern enlarged communal life and culture to the remotest part of the African village.

Africa is still at an early stage of ICT development as verified by the relatively low ICT Development Index (IDI) values of all countries in the African region released by ITU in 2010.