Satellite by 2015

March 30, 2012

Deal signed with US firm
Bangladesh will launch its first satellite into space by 2015 in a landmark move towards opening a new era in communication and broadcasting and creating new businesses.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission yesterday signed a Tk 82.5 crore consultancy deal with a US firm, Space Partnership International (SPI). The firm will design the satellite, named Bangabandhu, officials said.
The satellite will reduce reliance on foreign satellites for cable channels and improve telecom services to the remote areas of the country.
Moreover, meteorological data, including disaster warnings, will be easily available via the satellite. It might also be used for mapping natural resources.
Bangladesh will be able to earn $3 billion in the next 15 years by offering various services through using the satellite, said Bruce D Kraselsky, managing director of SPI.
His firm will design the satellite and put in place its maintenance system. The company will also create a business plan, coordinate frequency with international agencies and initiate training for local experts, among other things.
Under the deal, the firm will hire a manufacturing company to build and get the satellite in orbit in the next three years.
BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed and SPI MD Bruce D Kraselsky inked the agreement at the BTRC office in the capital.
However, building and sending the satellite into space will require additional costs.
Building and sending a satellite into space costs about $150 million, said Philip A Rubin, a top official of SPI, adding that the cost depends on the satellite’s capacity.
The government has yet to finalise the launching cost, he said.
Currently, Bangladesh pays $11 million in satellite bandwidth rent to other countries’ satellites a year, Kraselsky said, describing the benefits of launching the satellite. “This amount will no longer be spent.”
The country will be able to make $50 million per year from the satellite, he said.
He added the satellite would help Bangladesh in global communication and also facilitate telemedicine, emergency service and border security. It will also back up the current communication channels.
At present, the telecommunication sector gets bandwidth from the lone submarine cable, SEA-ME-WE 4. By 2014 the country will be connected with another submarine cable, SEA-ME-WE 5.
The satellite project is part of the government’s ICT policy of 2009.
Philip A Rubin, also president of RKF Engineering Solutions, LLC, Washington, told The Daily Star that the BTRC had asked the firm to incorporate military intelligence capacity in the satellite.
Telecommunications Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, who was present at the deal signing ceremony, requested the SPI to try to launch the satellite in two years so that the current government could see it happen during its tenure, which ends in 2014.
Dan W Mozena, the US ambassador to Dhaka, said the initiative showed Bangladesh’s determination to play a global role.
It will help the country’s economic development and implement the vision of Digital Bangladesh, he added.
The BTRC chairman told The Daily Star that the government would form a company to operate the satellite and its ground station.
“The BTRC cannot be an operator. It will work until the company is set up,” he said.
He added the consulting firm would provide all kinds of training for the maintenance of the satellites.
So far, 19 Asian countries have their own satellites in space, said Telecom Secretary Sunil Kanti Bose.
There are several thousand satellites in space, launched by more than 50 countries. India and Pakistan launched their own satellites in 1980 and 1990.

-With The Daily Star input


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