As Nigeria replaces its de-orbited communication satellite NigComSat 1R. Emma Okonji takes a look at the possibilities of such opportunities.
Launch of NigComSat 1R
Today, Nigeria re-wrote history when it returned to space with the launch of its communications satellite, christened NigComSat 1R.
The event took place at Xichang.
NigComSat 1R is a replacement satellite of NigComSat 1 which was de-orbited on November 10, 2008, due to solar array problem.
It was built by China Great Wall Industries Corporation (CGWIC).The replacement satellite, launched today was at no cost to Nigeria.
Speaking on the planned launch, Chief Executive Officer of NigComSat Limited, Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, whose agency is responsible for building and controlling Nigeria’s communications satellite, said the launch would boost Nigeria’s Global Competitive Index ranking as the services would provide for her telecommunications, broadcast, and broadband internet needs.
It will help Nigeria in the race to achieve the vision 20:2020 goals through the current administration’s transformation agenda.
He explained that NigComsat Limited was incorporated as a limited liability company in April 2006, and that it is responsible for the operation and management of Nigerian Communications Satellites starting with NigComSat-1, which was launched in May 2007 and de-orbited after 18 months.
A replacement satellite, NigComSat-1R, which has the same features but with a few modifications as NigComSat-1, is set for launch next week, he said.
Features of NigComSat 1R
NigComSat-1R, which is the second Nigerian communications satellite, is to be placed into a geosynchronous orbit and positioned at 42.5oE. It has a launch mass of 5,100 kg, and has an expected service life of 15 years. Meaning that by 2026 Nigeria will have to launch a new satellite in the same orbital slot.
The satellite will provide Ku-band, C-band, Ka-band and Navigation payloads capability. The Ku-band payload will have 14 operational channels, 2 fixed beams over Western and Eastern Africa.
The C-band payload will have 4 channels with coverage of Western Africa. The Ka-band payload will have 8 channels providing communications using 3 fixed spot beams over Europe, South Africa and Nigeria for trunking services and broadcasting, Rufai said,
The Navigation payload shall receive 2 uplink signals at C-band covering Nigeria and Europe, and transmit 2 downlink signals at L-band, L1 and L5, using a global coverage.
The spacecraft is designed such that each Radio Frequency (RF) channel shall meet the specified requirements, work well throughout its service life including eclipse conditions and also work well with allowance for degradation, wear-out and radiation damage.
Capacity Building in NigComSat Limited
NigComSat Limited has over 200 trained and equipped engineers and a well established ground control station at Abuja, Nigeria and a backup station at Kashi, China for the spacecraft tracking and control, Payloads Management and technology customisations and domestication.
Our strategic plan is centred on using our assets, the staff, the satellite and complementary ground infrastructure as an extraordinary vehicle to drive the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution in pursuit of self-reliance and required skills for engineering and technology domestication of secured satellite bandwidth and telecommunication services for defence, security outfits and other strategic telecommunications and broadcast needs of the nation.
Additionally, NIGCOMSAT seeks to partner all stakeholders to complement existing terrestrial telecommunication infrastructure to promote universal access through innovative, affordable, high speed broadband telecommunications services to enhance ICT usage, ICT skills and increase ICT Development Index (IDI) of Nigerian citizens. This will ultimately diversify monolithic national revenue, create jobs, and improve security and socio-economic development of Nigeria.
Services and Applications
The company as a commercial satellite operator has the mandate to offer wide range of information and communications services and applications within and outside Nigeria under its satellite’s footprints.
Such services and applications include but not limited to Telecommunications services in the form of Corporate Networks (Virtual Private Networks), VSAT Networks, Urban Rural Telephony, Mobile & Paging Services, Inter-carrier Services and Satellite to Satellite Services; Broadcasting – Television (TV, HDTV), Direct to home (DTH), Multimedia, Video Streaming and Audio/Sound (DARS) Internet and Multimedia – Video Conference, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP); Tele-presence – Distance Learning (Tele-Education), Telemedicine/Tele-Health, e-Transformation (such as e-Government, e-Commerce, e-Agriculture, e-Health, among others; Customisation and domestication of foreign technologies strategically to suit our needs by utilising NigComSat Limited Research and development department.
These includes but not limited to Satellite modems, Antennas, feeds, switches, biometric systems, e-voting systems, RFID based systems, silos, among others; Telecommunications Network Infrastructure deployment and alliance with other network operators.
Uniqueness of Satellite Communication
According to Ahmed-Rufai, satellite communications and indeed NIigComSat in Nigeria provides unique competitive advantages over terrestrial networks of any organisation in the country such as:
Satellite communications is the only telephony and broadband wide-area network technology that is available everywhere. Meaning uniform services for all locations in Nigeria and indeed all areas where we have footprints. All that’s needed is a clear view of the sky. Managing the communication network is also simpler and less expensive, since there is one point of contact for all locations, versus multiple local service providers and problematic demarcations between them.
Security and Privacy
Satellite networks are more secure and private than alternative terrestrial technologies, making them the technology of choice for governmental agencies, security organisations, military and enterprises that require high levels of security.
IP traffic across the internet crosses many computers, providing multiple points of access to private traffic. Satellite communications does not travel across third party terrestrial computers, minimising chances of unapproved access. Traffic can be encrypted using the most advanced algorithms to ensure that data will not be compromised. NigComsat can provide the military, the police and all other security agencies with the connectivity for their defence and internal security needs.
Satellite networks are independent of terrestrial disruptions, making them an excellent solution for communication backups for terrestrial networks. They are also useful for disaster recovery and quick-deploy solutions, enabling communication services to be quickly restored.
Satellite networks have far fewer potential points of failure than terrestrial solutions, and built-in redundancy at almost every level, satellite networks provide unmatched reliability.
Typical satellite networks can assure 99.95 percent availability to all sites, regardless of location.
Terrestrial networks have multiple potential points of failure. To add to the challenge, terrestrial network providers may not be able to fix outages without third-party carriers or work crews. Both telephony and modern broadband networks are challenged to provide this level of nationwide reliability.
Multi-cast Content Distribution
Satellite’s inherent strengths as a broadcast medium makes Very Small Aperture (VSAT) networks ideal for the distribution of bandwidth-intensive information like data, video or audio, to large numbers of remote locations.
A terrestrial network requires sending separate and identical messages to all recipients, consuming valuable bandwidth and server resources.
Satellite multicast technology eliminates duplicate transmissions and maximises the efficiency of existing servers and networks, freeing valuable bandwidth. There is no extra overhead at the hub or in the satellite. The only added cost for each recipient is the VSAT. That translates to significant cost savings.
Satellite communications provides advanced communications infrastructure to regions that do not have adequate terrestrial infrastructure as is the case in Nigeria through:
Satellite networks are much less costly to deploy, maintain and operate in many cases than terrestrial network technologies. Terrestrial networks require heavy infrastructure, whether they are telephony networks (based on copper wiring, fibre optic cables, radio or microwave towers), or broadband data networks (such as Frame Relay, DSL, ISDN and cable). In remote areas, building such networks is often prohibitively expensive. VSATs are not only significantly less expensive to deploy, VSATs built for low power consumption can run without electrical power infrastructure, using simple solar panels.
Rapid Deployment and Installation
Satellite networks can be rolled out to hundreds or thousands of locations in a fraction of the time required for a comparable terrestrial network. VSAT installation requires only a single vendor, so multi-vendor coordination is not needed. An installation can usually be completed in a matter of hours, no matter where the site is located, meaning complete network deployment can be accomplished in a matter of weeks, rather than months. Satellite network installation and deployment are indeed quick and simple.