Rascom: Satellite Commincation for Africa

Rascom: Satellite Commincation for Africa

January 19, 1996
"Afrocentric satellite to pool resource needs"

by Leon Perlman

South Africa recently hosted a special meeting for Rascom, a pan-African satellite organisation dedicated to providing Africa with its own satellite for relaying telephone, data and television signals. African countries are paying up to R1,5- billion a year through obligatory routing of intra- African telephony traffic through Europe.

The 120-delegate meeting in Cape Town provided the first detailed implementation plan for pooling African satellite requirements, currently spread over some 11 Intelsat satellites. With the substantial loss of first-world country business to high-capacity fibre optic cabling, Africa is seen by satellite companies as the next revenue growth point.

The first Afrocentric Rascom satellite, the R750-million Intelsat 804, is under construction by Lockheed and is scheduled to be launched in the first quarter of 1997. This should be followed by the launch of the Intelsat 805. Both satellites are expected to be launched into orbit by Chinese Long March rockets.

The 804 will provide high-power coverage of the entire African continent, South America, parts of Europe and the Middle East, and even the east coast of the United States.

"We aim to pool African resources to create a network for 17 African countries for their domestic television, data and telephony needs. We believe that the best way for Africa to be developed is via a regional approach to be able to show a market big enough to attract regional as well as international players," Intelsat group director Hamadoun Toure told the delegates.

But while the 804 would pool the capacity needs of African nations currently served by some nine Intelsat spacecraft, Toure says that some services will not be moved --- primarily because of the need for costly upgrades to earth station equipment.

The capacity on the 804 --- which is still under construction --- is already swamped and another satellite will be ordered. The 805 will be the first dedicated land-mass African satellite, orbiting in geo-stationary orbit above Zaire.

Many of the Rascom delegates expressed concern about funding for the project. Intelsat requires a prepayment of more than US$200- million.

Telkom's presence at the meeting surprised many observers considering it is not an official Rascom signatory. However, the three Telkom representatives all played an active part in the deliberations. Most of the capacity on the proposed 805 satellite has already been requested by Telkom.

This appears to dovetail with Telkom's plans to integrate its planned South Africa to Far East (SAFE) fibre cable with the intra-African Rascom 805 satellite network. Telkom is likely to contribute handsomely in proportion to its usage of the 804 and 805 satellites. It is the largest Intelsat user in Africa by far.

Sources in Rascom say that South Africa's official entry into the organisation will occur within months, if not weeks. They say that these assurances have been already been given by Telkom chairman Dikgang Moseneke.

Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 14:44:45 -0500 From: Harold Marcus <> To: Multiple recipients of list H-AFRICA <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU> Subject: FYI: Rascom: Satellite Commincation for Africa

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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