12 November, 2008

Nigeria’s N40bn Satellite Missing from Orbit

Nigeria's N40bn Satellite Missing from Orbit

By Efem Nkanga, 11.12.2008

The Nigerian Commun-ications Satellite (NigComSat), which was launched into orbit over 18 months ago, is said to be missing.
THISDAY gathered last night that with the satellite missing from orbit, the huge amount spent by the Nigerian government, about N40 billion may have gone down the drain.
The satellite was found to have run into a technical hitch for some weeks now, according to a source, when it was discovered that it was using a technological standard that was not meant for Africa but Asia.
The materials used in the building of the satellite by the Chinese that built it were said to have also been in question.
The solar panel was said to be faulty and not working. All this was being battled with while, the Managing Director of NigComSat, Ahmed Rufai, was said to be angling for the launch of the second satellite.
The contract for the NigComSat project which was signed on December 15, 2004 in Abuja between China Great Wall Industry Corporation and the National Space Research and Development Agency was said to have cost the Federal Government over N40 billion. China was awarded the deal after it outbid 21 international.
The cost of the satellite include items such as construction, insurance, value added tax as well as the price for building one ground control station in Abuja and a backup control station in Kashi, China.
The satellite has four gateways said to be located in South Africa, China, Italy and Northern Nigeria.
The satellite, which has a lifespan of 15 years, is being monitored and tracked by a ground station built in Abuja while the Chinese firm, Great Wall Industry Corporation, has a ground station in Kashgar, in northwest China 's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
It will be recalled that NigComSat which is 100 per cent owned by the Federal Government, was recently given a 15 per cent stake from the Federal Government's 49 per cent stake in NITEL.
Nigeria in May 2007 launched NigComSat into orbit with expectations of tremendous gains to the nation's telecoms sector.
The NigComSat is a super hybrid geo-stationary satellite designed to operate in Africa, parts of the Middle East and southern Europe and was expected to digitalise the Nigerian economy and promote technological advancement in Nigeria and Africa.
The expectation from many quarters was that NigComSat's carrier rocket, Long March 3-B, which blasted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province and entered the orbit accurately on May 14, would set the stage for Nigeria to consolidate on its growing profile as the technological hub of Africa and an emerging player in the global terrain.
The satellite project was supposed to enable Internet access to even the remotest rural villages, a major quest of stakeholders in recent times. It was also expected to enhance government's economic reforms, particularly in the areas of e-learning, e-commerce, tele-medicine, tele-education, and rural telephony.
The project, according to experts, was expected to help African users save more than $900 million spent for telephony trunking and data transport services, $660 million in phone call charges and broadband access which is more than $95 million spent each year, as well as create more than 150, 000 jobs for Nigerians.
Rufai had before the launch disclosed that Nigeria would earn about $1.05billion which is N128billion yearly from NigComSat. A major part of the earnings was expected to come in from the sale and leasing of transponders from NigComSat.
Rufai had stated that each transponder, forty in all will be sold for between $60-70 million. NigComSat currently has forty transponders, with 28 active and 12 inactive.
However despite the huge expectations of Nigerians, NigComSat has not performed to expectations. Rufai at a recent media interaction agreed that NigComSat had not been able to capture the market principally because of the challenges it faced from the regulatory authority.
Government sources confirmed to THISDAY the failure of the satellite in orbit. While admitting that the level the failure has gone is mindboggling, the source disclosed that the Federal Executive Council will meet today on the matter and issue a statement on how the failure will be addressed
.

NEWS SOURCE

No comments:

FeedBurner FeedCount