Nigerian communication satellites are being managed by the Nigerian Communication Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited. The company was incorporated on the 4th of April, 2006 under the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.
The company was created to become the leading communication satellite operator and service provider in Africa. This led to the launch of the first Nigerian communications satellite into space.
|NigComSat-1R. Image: Channels TV|
NigComSat-1 was launched on the 13th of May, 2007 aboard a Chinese Long March 3B carrier rocket at a launch site in Xichang, China. It became the first African geosynchronous communication satellite.
However, NigComSat-1 wasn’t a wide success as the 5,150kg mass of the satellite did not live up to expectations. On the 11th of November, 2008, NigComSat-1 failed in orbit after it ran out of power due to an anomaly in its solar array.
It was expected that the satellite would have a service life of 15 years but it was switched off on the 10th of November 2008 for analysis and repairs.
The contract for another communication satellite, NigComSat-1R was signed by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology on the 24th of March, 2009. This was a step taken to replace the failed NigComSat-1.
NigComSat-1R was successfully launched on December 19, 2011 in Xichang, China. It is a quad band made up of C, K, Ka, and L bands, it contains 40 transponders out of which 28 are active and 12 are redundant.
Commercial activities began on the new satellite on the 19th of March, 2012 after a successful In-Orbit Test (IOT) and In-Orbit Delivery (IOD). The Managing Director of NIGCOMSAT LTD, Engr. Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai revealed the importance of the satellite while speaking at the In-Orbit Delivery of NigComSat-1R at the Ground Control Station, Airport Road, Lugbe, Abuja.
“The launch on December 19, 2011 of NigComSat-1R in Xichang, China and today’s IOD March 19, 2012, remain to us and all Nigerians a spectacle of history. Nigeria has finally joined the big league in communications satellite service provision as NigComSat-1R boasts of several opportunities with footprints across Africa, parts of Europe and indeed Africa.”
He further reiterated plans for more communication satellites in the future: “By this IOD, we are encouraged by the Federal Government to go ahead and will go beyond the 1R to also build and launch in due course, NigComSat- 2 and 3 as backups to stave off crisis that may follow breakdown. By this IOD, commercial services begin.”
Benefits of the NigComSat-1R include improving and driving national broadband access across the country.
The NIGCOMSAT boss further revealed in a conference the significance of the satellite with some statistics. He claimed that Africa is the least wired continent in the world today “in terms of robust telecommunications infrastructure and systems to cater for its nearly one billion population”.
According to him, in Nigeria, there is a combined landed submarine optic fibre capacity of over 10 terabit per second but only about 0.5Tbps gets to the hinterland. Internet penetration stands at 33% while broadband penetration is put at 6%.
72.25% of access is via wireless networks, mainly GSM while the remaining 27.75% access is via other media; 2G mobile coverage is 65% while 3G is 35%.
A few months back, Zinox technology entered an agreement with NIGCOMSAT to enable it Zinox serve more bandwidth to underserved and un-served areas in the country.
NigComSat-1R is very important to the broadband access in the nation and every other economic activities connected to the use of broadband if we must reduce the purchase of broadband from abroad.
Satellite communications is capable of this because it has been a major means of broadcast, mass media, free to air TV, Tele-medicine, e-learning among others.