Following the successful launch of a replacement for the de-orbited communication satellite, NIGCOMSAT-1R, Managing Director of NigComSat Ltd., Ahmed Rufai, tells the media that more jobs would be created, among other benefits. Senior Correspondent Ngozi Oboh was there.
IN-ORBIT TESTING ONGOING
We termed 2011 a year of fulfillment of promise. As we are aware NIGCOMSAT 1R is a replacement satellite. We are aware it was launched 5:41pm Nigerian time on December 19, 2011. Since that time till date two major events have happened. One is the launch and early orbit phase of the satellite, the LEO by the LEO operations. The LEO operations are the stage in which you drive the satellite to its final position. The position of NIGCOMSAT -1R in orbit is the same position as NIGCOMSAT 1 which is 42.5 degrees East. This is Nigeria’s orbital position. We also have 19.1 degrees allocated to Nigeria by International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Whqen we launch a satellite, what happens is that just like somebody going to Abuja and he arrives Abuja but he is actually living in Karmo or Mararaba -Nyanya (outskirt town), so he now has to drive to Nyanya. But it is not easy like that in the orbit; in the same orbit where we are, there are about 350 communication satellites and some of them are co-located in an orbit. So you have to manoeuvre to your own orbital position. It takes up to six to seven days. From the 19th that we launched we were able to get our orbital position on the 27th; precisely by 11am, the satellite is fitted on our orbit.
Having acquired our position now, by December 28, 2011, we commenced in-orbit testing – a procedure carried out to test all the subsystems of the satellite. It is like when a patient presents himself for full medical check- up. They do the same to the satellite. Every single units is tested and compared with what the value was before the launch took place. There is what we call SPT 3 test done when the satellite is fully completed in the laboratory – so the results are known. Similar tests are taken in-orbit and compared with that. We commenced that two days ago and till date the results are very good. We will continue till the end of January. It agrees with what we expected and sometimes even better. When completed the manufacturers and the insurance industry will formally deliver the satellite to NigComSat Ltd. The performance characteristics will be measured and we are doing the measurement from here in Lugbe, Abuja.
The NIGCOMSAT-1 was controlled from China. Our engineers were learning what we call station keeping but by the time we were about to take over when the accident happened. Now NIGCOMSAT-1R is fully controlled here because we now have the capacity to control and manage the satellite, although for the first one year, we are still going to have some of our technical partners to verify what we are going to do and okay it. The control will take place from here in Abuja after the satellite has been fully handed over. That is when we are going to commence full commercial operations.
TRANSPONDERS NOW ON SALE
We have been doing pre-launch marketing, reaching out to our customers and they have prepared their mind. Those who tested and used NIGCOMSAT-1 knew we had better footprint and are looking forward to -1R. Based on performance of NIGCOMSAT- 1, we got our customers interested in -1R. We know we are going to face competition but many of them are going to migrate. We are talking to Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and will be concluding that in the first week of January. 60 per cent of government agencies are our customers. Our engineers in the application department are developing products we are going to sell to government agencies so that, socially, Nigerians can benefit. Our strategy is to sell a satellite solution, a solution that is coming from an institution that is home grown. We are the only satellite operator in the sub-Saharan Africa.
We have a satellite specifically designed for Nigeria and Africa. That is why we say that NIGCOMSAT is rooted in Africa and globally positioned. Before the launch, I had N10million from one of the customers on NIGCOMSAT-1 before the de-orbiting. We have a customer based in Canada and are discussing an $8million contract but I am asking for $2million. We have advanced discussion with Nigeria Postal Services (NIPOST), NTA, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Military, Nigerian Police, Nigeria Immigration Service, Galaxy Backbone Plc and some ISPS (Internet Service Providers).
Secondly the satellite is covering 40 African countries. Already, we have a request from Ghana for two transponders. We have market in Sierra Leone, we will have market in Congo Brazaville, Angola up to South Africa. Leaving Africa for Europe, we have coverage in six European Union countries from London to Germany and Paris on KU (band).
We have a pre-sale of 4KA band in Asia. We have market from China up to Pakistan; this is a new introduction and improvement on NIGCOMSAT-1.
CHEAPER INTERNET SERVICES EVERYWHERE
We did not have (intellectual property (IP) content in NIGCOMSAT-1 but this time around we are in partnership with MainOne to take IP from Lagos point of presence to the satellite. We are complementing the efforts of MainOne such that in the middle or ending of January, we will be commissioning IP uplink to satellite. So a Nigerian IP provider can stay here and sell internet VSAT services to homes all over Africa and earn foreign exchange. That is why we said we are going to deliver solution in NigComSat because we have capacity for end to end solution. If a bank comes to us and says they want a virtual private network, we have capacity to deliver a solution to them.
GOVERNANCE WILL IMPROVE
We will be the backbone for eGovernment. eGovernment implies government to government communication; government to business communication and citizen to government communication. If you bring in business to business and citizen to business communication, it is eCommerce but when electronic infrastructure is used to conduct the affairs of governance it is eGovernment. Galaxy Backbone Plc will rely heavily on NIGCOMSAT-1R to deploy serious communication among government institutions and between the citizenry and government. This means that in villages, for instance, students that want to register for Joint Admission and Matriculation (JAMB) exam can now do that online. Some travel 50 to 70 kilometers to get internet services but that will be a thing of the past when we start operations. So government institutions will benefit from the satellite because we will be able to give them virtual network connectivity and also link them to broadband internet – that is, surfing without tears. This is going to enhance access to information as at when needed and also enhance the decision making process of government because they have timely access to information.
EXPECT JOB BAZAAR
In the area of education we are going to intervene in two folds: first are the educational institutions. We are going to be in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and, hopefully, the USPF (Universal Service Provision Fund). As I am talking to you now, there is project ongoing under USPF in the Ministry of Communication technology whereby about 78 universities in Nigeria will be connected to an e-Library project and this is going to be anchored on NIGCOMSAT-1R. The contract is already out and before June 2012 all these institutions will have e-Library. This will make study materials available in our tertiary institutions.
We have calculated that the total transponders required for this is 47 megabytes per second. That is almost one and half transponder of NIGCOMSAT-1R. So, NIGCOMSAT is going to play a leading role in the deployment of these services under the USPF.
We are also going to intervene in the area of what we call LEAD 774. It is a project we are introducing whereby graduates of tertiary institutions are empowered with hitech skills, especially in the area of software programming and application. We call it Learning for Empowerment in the area of software skill Application on product Development, simply called LEAD. We are going to do this by creating a micro-IT park in all the local governments of the federation and hotspots whereby school leavers can train in the area of how to write application from the fundamental up to expert level. We are looking at the next five years; if we can train 10,000 every year, at the end of the day we will be training about 1.9million over the next five years.
We are going to initiate this project by starting with just one state; later we’ll expand it. Once a Nigerian graduate has the capacity to write software application, and has the capacity to build small electronic product like all the things we have here now, you have started creating the seed of transformation.
Source: All Africa.Com – 3 Jan 2012