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How has Nigeria’s satellite initiative fared thus far?

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How has Nigeria’s satellite initiative fared thus far?

With the status of Nigeria, it has not fared well. We expected that with the level of human and technical expertise available in the country, Nigeria should have had its own satellite by now. Both the technology and science are well known and the International Telecommunications Union has allocated an office for the Nigerian satellite, but Nigeria has not taken its place in the comity of nations. Space is a very limited resource and in two years’ time, it will be difficult to get any allocation in space. Few weeks ago, the Chinese developed teleportation for which they can transport something from the earth into orbit in an instant; that is the peak of science as of now. Nigeria has not even been able to know how to launch a satellite. It is unfortunate that we have invested a lot of money in NARSDA and in the development of satellite system in Nigeria with little to show for it. I know that Nigeria sent some people to the United Kingdom and China to study the technology and to develop satellite systems, but up till now, Nigeria has not really got any thing tangible out of it. However, I believe that with government’s commitment, there is hope for us, but the hope cannot be there forever. So, the earlier we take our slot in space, the better for us. In fact, the more you can conquer space, the more powerful you are in the comity of nations. That is why I am saying that Nigeria is lagging behind in all these aspects of technology. • Prof. Isaac Adimula (Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, University of Ilorin)

For one reason or the other, the issue of satellite initiative in this country is rarely in the public domain. I would say it has not fared well because when other countries launch satellite programmes, the general citizenry are all aware it is not the same here.

When one considers government’s penchant for publicity, if the satellite initiative had fared well, it would have made it public by now.

This is not rocket science in the sense that, we can take the late comers’ advantage. Other countries have done it. We, as a people, have the potential to do it. The way forward is to have the right leadership and initiative around the entire satellite programme.

Depending on what the satellite is meant to achieve, there are some for monitoring of weather conditions, there are others for scientific exploration, while others can take you to the earth’s orbit and land people on the moon. Nigeria is currently not even part of the international space programme.

The country can benefit quite a lot by getting actively involved. The only thing is for us to have an initiative guide, have the right leadership around it, and of course be ready to make investments in that direction. • Professor Stephen Okodudu, (Lecturer, University of Port Harcourt)

I don’t think that Nigeria is doing well in its satellite initiative in terms of having our identity out there in space. There are a lot of benefits to be derived when we have such a technology. For instance, we have meteorological benefits and general benefits in the physical sciences. We also have a lot to gain from being on the super highway – the Internet. We could also benefit from the two-way visat transmission that most countries have. We heard that Nigeria launched a satellite into space, one allegedly got missing, and another was purportedly shattered.

When other countries are growing in leaps and bounds, we are still nowhere in terms of satellites. I think our government is not determined to capitalise on the benefits of technology from the launch of satellites. A lot of the stakeholders are not properly guided; corruption has also eaten into the psyche of most Nigerians. The percentage of the incorruptible is negligible.

Imagine a job executed in Ghana or Senegal for thousands of dollars costing millions of dollars here. Government should take its time to look for patriotic elements among us and make sure that such persons are professional round pegs in round holes. • Agbonlahor James (Senior Faculty, NIIT, Benin centre)

The satellite space has been characterised by high drama, confusion and inexplicable expenditure offering very little value for the investment of over $360m that Nigeria expended on Nigcomsat 1 (which went missing) and its replacement, Nigcomsat 1R, replaced under insurance arrangements. It will be recalled that there was the recent palaver over insurance fees amounting to some half a billion dollars over a period of time.

According to some practitioners and government officials though, before Nigcomsat can win confidence of the potential market, it also requires additional satellites as back up. In fact, some have posited that three satellites are needed to achieve the perfect balance of economics. It is difficult to see how that additional investment – running into probably hundreds of millions of dollars – can be justified on a project that has had one satellite de-orbited, and the second currently in an opaque commercial state of affairs, that is simply not making returns on the investments made.

There may also be technical imitations and flaws inherent in the design process, which clearly did not contemplate many future developments at the time of its conception. NigComSat-1R C-band coverage over Nigeria may have limitations. Its position, at 42.5 degrees E, implies that signal reception over Nigeria will have high attenuation. Its proximity to two Turkish satellites (on longitude 42 degrees E), less than 2 degrees of longitude away from NigComSat-1R, is at variance with an ITU requirement to prevent interference. Its lower frequencies – generally between 3 to 7GHz – require larger antennae, therefore introducing more costs. Its Ku and Ka bands are susceptible to rain fade and other elements that absorb radio frequency above 11GHz. Basically, it does not seem to present compelling commercial proposition for enterprises.

Confidence in the service has also been an issue. From the loss of the initial satellite, to an erstwhile DG, who seemed to promise much more than could be delivered and promoted a controversial bill that almost amounted to an attempted coup d’ etat within the sector, it has been a tale of unmatched expectations. When one considers the recurrent expenditure and staff strength of almost 400, it is unlikely that organisations would eschew the fibre options and other stable satellite offerings and migrate to Nigcomsat.

Yet, the military are reportedly leveraging the satellite in the war against insurgency, and there are many business opportunities that the satellite proposition can be calibrated to address. High-resolution mapping, surveillance and other services, are viable options.

It may well be time to subject the whole initiative to national scrutiny in order to fully understand the scope of market opportunity and take a position on whether government should continue funding it at such a huge deficit on investment, or privatise it, considering there are only 10 years left in terms of the life expectancy of the satellite. • Olufemi Adeagbo (Managing Director, Comnaving ICT Advisers)

In looking at how we have fared in our venture into satellites, we have to ask what our objective was in the first place. It is the objective that will determine how successful we have been because various countries go into space for different reasons.

One of the reasons countries go into space is to be able to achieve speedy coverage without having to put down so much terrestrial infrastructure.

Yes, the satellite has helped us to achieve some level of penetration in some remote locations which now enjoy Internet services. With the satellite, we can stay in a remote place and watch satellite television.

Can we beat our chest and say the objectives have been achieved? You go into communications satellite because you want cheaper Internet services. Can we say today that we have cheaper Internet services? I don’t think so.

There is something we have achieved. We know that we can do this, but have we fully explored it? The answer is no. There are three things you may want to achieve with the communications satellite: you want to achieve full availability of service, you want the Internet to be accessible to all, and then you want to achieve affordability.

If you have not used the satellite to address these things, then to what extent have you succeeded?

Then coming to earth observation satellite; I don’t have much grasp of that, but today, we have flooding. Can we use the satellite to address the weather challenges that we have? When we are going out in the morning, can we have predictions as to what to expect?

As long as these expectations are not parts of our daily routine, I cannot say that we have succeeded with our earth observation satellite. • Mr. David Onu (Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Interra Networks)

Compiled by: Everest Amaefule, Success Nwogu, Chukwudi Akaside

and Alexander Okere.

               

Contact: [email protected]

 

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