Africa remains a hotbed of opportunities for satellite operators, but what traditionally has been a market reserved for international operators is finally seeing some homegrown competition.
Nigerian Communication Satellite Ltd. (Nigcomsat), a public-private partnership created with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Science Technology, launched its first satellite, Nigcomsat-1, in May aboard a Chinese Long March 3B rocket.
Nigcomsat-1, located at 42.5° East, carries four C-band transponders, 14 Ku-band transponders, 8 Ka-band transponders and 2 L-band transponders and is expected to provide a wide range of communications service over Africa for 15 years.
CEO T. Ahmed Rufai is responsible for directing Nigcomsat’s growth strategy, and with demand for capacity on the satellite already strong, Nigcomsat looks set for a bright future. “We want to play a leading role in terms of satellite communications in Africa,” says Rufai. “This is a satellite by Africa for African people.”
Nigcomsat completed testing of the spacecraft July, and the company looks to be launching operations during a time when demand for satellite capacity and services in Africa has never been higher.
In an exclusive interview with Via Satellite
Associate Editor Mark Holmes, Rufai discusses the potential markets for Nigcomsat-1 and the plans for future spacecraft as well as the impact the operator hopes to have in Africa.
Via Satellite: What are the major challenges for Nigcomsat over the next 12 months? Rufai
: We are entering the market for the first time, and we want to guarantee that we can be a strong service provider and provide a strong quality of service. We have been developing and training a lot of engineers who will be part of our technical support services staff. We know that the public and the consumers are very anxious to receive satellite services.
Via Satellite: What role can satellite technology play in Nigeria and surrounding countries? Rufai
: We have a big challenge when providing services to mobile operators. We are providing them with capacity which will enable them not to have to roll out terrestrial backbones on their own. So satellite will help them reduce their transmission costs. The expectations are that the costs of telecoms services in Nigeria will come down in the next two years.
Via Satellite: What markets across Africa are you targeting? Rufai
: In terms of the make-up of our customer base, we think the major customers for us will be mobile service operators, [direct-to-home] operators and national telecoms operators in Africa as well as the [Internet service providers]. You also have the government and the business community as potential customers for capacity.