Friday, 28 August 2015
Nigeria’s N34bn communications satellite idle in space
The multi-billion naira Nigeria’s communications satellite is lying idle in space in spite of its enormous communication resources.
According to Daily Trust sources the Nigeria’s space technology industry the high cost of internet data, inability to meet the June 17 International Telecommunications Union Digital Switch Over deadline and absence of real time tele-medicine in the country, amongst others, are due to idleness of the NigComsat 1-R.
One of the sources told our reporter that NigComSat-1R’s transponders have not been put into use even for once since it was re-launched in 2011.
A transponder is a device for receiving a radio signal and automatically transmitting a different signal.
The N34 billion naira communication satellite is lying idle partly because of inter-agency rivalry between the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and the Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) and because of inadequate funds to pay for the training of engineers abroad to update their knowledge, another source, who is a government official, said.
Nigeria and China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) in 2004 signed a N34bn deal to build and launch the communication satellite.
NigComSat 1 was launched into orbit from China on 13th May 2007 but got de-orbited (failed) in November 2008 due to some technical fault.
It was thereafter launched the second time by CGWIC on 19th December 2011 with a design life span of 15 years.
Confirming the idleness of NigComSat 1-R in a paper entitled “Deployment of Communications Satellite in Nigeria for Mass Economy: NigComSat-1R as a Case Study”, a space technology expert, Prof Tunji Samuel Ibiyemi, said there is no reported utilisation of these (NigComSat1-R) transponders for the over 42 months in space.
Prof Ibiyemi, who presented the paper in Abuja at this year Annual Space Dialogue and the Fourth Anniversary of NigeriaSat2 and NigeriaSat-X organised by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) last week, said the satellite has 28 active transponders and 12 redundant transponders as payloads and all of them are staying idle.
Nigeria should have been benefitting from hoisting a communication satellite in the orbit but this is not the case, he said.
“The NigComSat-1R satellite has effective signal coverage of the entire Nigeria and the West African sub-region. The satellite even has coverage extending to Central Africa in the Ku band; and coverage extending to South Africa and Latin America in the Ka band.
“However, it is sad to note that in spite of the enormous communication resources on board the NigComSat-1R there is reported utilisation of these transponders for over 42 months in space,” he said.
If put in use, each transponder is capable of carrying about 6 to 8 digital television programmes, that is, 6 to 8 TV stations can broadcast simultaneously their programmes on just one transponder, according to Prof Ibiyemi, who is also the Vice Chairman of Achievers University Owo, Ondo State.
He stated that the satellite could support over 168 television stations simultaneously and each TV programme has the possibility of being broadcast in 3 or 4 different languages concurrently.
There was no official comment from NIGCOMSAT yesterday as top officials who are in the position to speak on the issue were said to have travelled out of Abuja when our reporter called on the agency.
But an official who pleaded anonymity told our reporter on phone that it is not true that NigComSaat-1R is not being utilised.
She said: “Look, this is not true. How can people say this? Just last week, we signed a contract with the ministry of defense. They will be using the satellite on security purpose which I can give you the details, you know.”