Satellites are important to us in many ways and their uses have continued to evolve. They facilitate radio and cable television and cellular phone calls over long distances.
Communication satellites provide us with a global positioning system (GPS) to know exact locations and find directions to any place we want to go. They enable remote populations (hard-to-reach, rough landscapes) to access education and medical expertise.
But beyond communications, satellites are also used for many other purposes including astronomy, atmospheric studies, navigation, reconnaissance, remote sensing, search and rescue, space exploration, and weather forecasting systems.
Also, governments use them to spy on other countries to protect their citizens and other national interests.
A report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) shows that there are 1,819 communications satellites out of about 3,372 active satellites in orbit around the earth as at the end of 2020.
According to the report, satellite technology currently provides coverage over every human-inhabited square kilometre on the planet. It also noted the increasing deployment of medium earth orbit and low earth orbit satellites at different altitudes, to deliver connectivity for over 697 million people around the world.
Our country’s satellite communication solutions provider, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) was established in 2006 to primarily manage, control, operate and ensure the smooth delivery of quality satellite services to Nigerians.
Under the policy direction of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, NIGCOMSAT Limited has the mandate for the provision and oversight of fixed satellite services to its customers across the private and public sectors.
With the approval of the supervising Ministry, NIGCOMSAT has created two subsidiary firms – the Satellite Infrastructure Company (SIC) and the Satellite Broadband and Broadcasting Company (SBBC) – to carry out commercial business on its behalf with strategic partners, while also expanding its business operations.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami unveiled the two new satellite companies at the NIGCOMSAT Stakeholders’ Forum held in September in Lagos, with the theme, “NIGCOMSAT Ltd: The Present and the Future.”
While the SIC is geared to deliver satellite upstream services such as Transponder Leasing, In-orbit-Testing (IoT) services, and Carrier Spectrum Management (CSM) services, the SBBC would provide satellite downstream services, comprising broadband internet and broadcasting services, amongst others.
The SIC and SBBC were both set up to reposition NIGCOMSAT to harness potential opportunities, upgrade operational structures and transform the company into an opportunity-driven business entity.
Meanwhile, NIGCOMSAT Ltd has announced plans to launch two new satellites, NigComSat-2 and NigComSat-3 in 2023 and 2025 respectively, to replace the current NigComSat 1-R, with a life span of 15 years, which is expected to expire in 2026.
Aside placing NIGCOMSAT Ltd among leading communication operators with a fleet of satellites in orbit, the eventual launch of the two satellites is expected to enhance the quality of satellite services and widespread broadband services for customers and channel partners.
Moreover, the planned launch of the two satellites in 2023 and 2025, would go a long way in helping NIGCOMSAT meet up with its mandate to commercialise satellite resources in the country and provide quality and cheap services to Nigerians.
In September 2020, NIGCOMSAT, in collaboration with Thales Alenia Space of France, and the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), provided a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) using NigComSat-1R Navigational services for the first time over Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Earlier last year, the company acquired the hub technology, DIALOG HUB and 5IF for satellite broadband Ka services, to ensure improved service reliability and to foster enterprise connectivity, mobility networks, and other areas which expand beyond the present level of satellite connectivity.
Also within the same period, NIGCOMSAT successfully provided satellite connectivity services via NigComSat 1R for the live broadcast of the virtual commissioning of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) Gas Pipeline by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Managing Director/CEO of NIGCOMSAT, Dr Abimbola Alale, has continued to pursue the company’s resolve to be the leading satellite communication solution provider in Nigeria and Africa through sustained engagements with channel partners to serve Nigerians better.
Furthermore, as part of the VSAT/TVRO capacity development programme, NIGCOMSAT Ltd under the leadership of Dr Alale, has successfully trained 600 youth across the six geo-political zones in States such as Lagos, Kano, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau, Rivers, Anambra, Niger, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Abia, and Ekiti.
Dr Alale underscored the importance of strategic engagements which serve as the perfect avenue for channel partners and stakeholders in the ICT industry to review NIGCOMSAT’s performance with a focus on areas that need expansion and improvement in line with the company’s core mandate and core values.
As a key player in the Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020 – 2025), it is expected that NIGCOMSAT will expand its scope of engagements by creating a platform where Nigerians can access relevant and regular updates on information relating to the organisation’s programmes and activities.
Inyene Ibanga writes from Wuye District, Abuja.