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Nigeria moves to acquire two new satellites to grow capacity

The Nigerian Communication Satellite (NigComSat) Limited is planning to acquire two new satellites as it aims to increase operational capacity.

According to Abimbola Alale, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the company owned by the Nigerian government, NigComSat-2 (High Throughput Satellite) would be launched in 2023 while NigComSat-3 would launch in 2025.

The two satellites would eventually replace the existing satellite NigComSat-1R which is set to deorbit in 2026 when its 15 years lifespan expires. NigComSat-1R replaced NigComSat-1 which failed in orbit in November 2008 due to a solar array anomaly. The NigComSat-1R was successfully launched on-board the LM-3B launch vehicle developed by CALT on December 2011 and was delivered in orbit to NigComSat Limited on 2 March 2012.

“This will not only inspire confidence in our customers and channel partners but also place NigComSat Ltd in the front line of communication satellite operators with a fleet of satellites in orbit,” Alale said.

Nigeria is pushing its satellite capacity as part of measures to connect millions of Nigerians living in rural areas to the internet. About 60 percent of the population is not covered by broadband and the majority of those covered are in the urban centers. Alale says boosting the satellite capacity would also contribute to the “nation’s digital economy service infrastructure.”

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NigComSat is expected to play a key role in the achievement of the targets set out in the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.

While the plans to acquire new satellites are ongoing, NigComSat has also been growing its human capacity by empowering its personnel to acquire the technical know-how of the satellite technologies. In recent times, it has sent personnel abroad for training and many of them have returned to contribute their skills in the industry.

Beyond personnel training, the company is also reaching out to communities. NigComSat said it has trained 600 youths across the six geo-political zones in the country. The states that have benefited include Lagos, Kano, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau, Rivers, Anambra, Niger, Kebbi, Akwa-Ibom, Abia, and Ekiti. These youths have been equipped with tools to participate in growing the digital economy.

The company also secured approval in early 2020 to form two subsidiary companies (SUBCOs) the Satellite Infrastructure Company (SIC) to provide satellite upstream services such as Transponder leasing, and In-Orbit-(IoT) services, Carrier Spectrum Management (CSM) services, etc. and the Satellite Broadcasting and Broadband Company (SBBC) to provide satellite downstream services such as broadband internet services, Broadcasting (DTH) services, etc.

Alale says NigComSat has been given a set of KPIs by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, linked to the development of a strategic document that identifies the key market opportunities and risks in the Nigerian market as well as defines the SUBCO’s operational framework.

The SUBCOs were formed to carry out commercial businesses on behalf of NigComSat with strategic partners and expand its business operations and in the information and communications technology space.

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