From Mail and Guardian newspaper (South Africa) edition January 19, 1996
@ Afrocentric satellite to pool resource needs
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
The 120-delegate meeting in Cape Town provided
the first detailed implementation plan for
pooling African satellite requirements,
currently spread over some 11 Intelsat
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
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
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
Many of the Rascom delegates expressed concern
about funding for the project. Intelsat
requires a prepayment of more than US$200-
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
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.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
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Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016
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