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May 05, 2011

06/05/2011 (On-The-Air)

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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Gillian De Gouveia speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

De Gouveia: Africa’s newest telecommunications satellite is safely in orbit. Tell us a bit about that.

Creamer: This is the Intelsat New Dawn, it’s the latest African satellite. The big thing about it is the involvement of the private sector in this investment and notably some South African investment as well from Convergence Partners who have got 25,1% of this Intelsat satellite.

Intelsat itself is saying that South Africa is its happy hunting ground as far as new satellites are concerned and Africa in particular, because they have not got 22 satellites up and planning to do a lot more.

This was its 22nd satellite going up again from French Guiana and using Arianespace, the French rocket people. So, we see this growth in demand for telecommunication satellites in Africa, but we also see the South African involvement.

In the debt raising, 90% of the debt raised for this $250-million launch was from South Africa’s Nedbank and also the State-owned South African Industrial Development Corporation.

De Gouveia: While we are on the topic of satellites, how is South Africa’s first space satellite doing following all that criticism?

Creamer: The opposition climbed in to South Africa’s SumbandileSat and said that this was a waste of money, but in actual fact if you look at it the cost of that satellite was about R11-million and already on the imagery that has come through, if you valued the imagery that has been presented, and there has been 1 000 non-cloud shots from the satellite, obviously the clouds sometimes play a role and inhibit the actual image.

But, 1 000 non-cloud shots coming in and could be valued at about R10-million. We might not have bought all of them, but at least those images are coming in. Recently during the flooding in Oshakati, the Namibians said to us if we could please go and get those images, which you need during a flooding period. We could show where the roads passable and we did it in 24 hours. So, quickly we got that to them.

People might say that the total programme is R27-million, which is true, but I think that we are in an area here where there is a lot of potential for business coming up in the space area. It is quite incredible that we have got into this micro-satellite business and quite relatively cheaply. Some of the satellites have been hit by radiation.

Unfortunately the sun has smacked the SumbandilaSat and its not going through orbit very smoothly at the moment, its rather tumbling and some of its innards have been hampered and they can’t actually fix them. But its still producing these images, which is quite important.

De Gouveia: What about the broadband bonanza that South Africa is experiencing at the moment?

Creamer: We have gone from the heavens down below sea and the same need, we have got this telecommunications cabling coming through now under sea. The latest is the West African Cable Systems, called WACS, which has just landed north of Cape Town.

We saw Seacom come in in 2009 and Eassy in 2010. Now the WACS came in 2011 is going to be a French telecom similar route from Africa to Europe the similar path that WACS followed is going to be followed by the next cable in 2012.

Then a very exciting one, which is going to be slightly different is the South Atlantic Express, going from Africa to Brazil this time round and is going to be called the SAex. Again, South African investment coming into that with the State-owned South African Industrial Development Corporation putting investment into that and also our State-owned Broadband Infraco wanting to invest in that.

Again telecommunications being taken up that sort of capacity by the Vodacoms, MTNs and all the others, particularly with this latest Cape Town one where people have been saying that they’ve been riding a bicycle on the super highway and they are now getting onto their motorbike. We have fallen behind and the big benefit must come to the consumer.

Its fine landing these cables, but then you have still got to build that infrastructure and then the various service providers have got to make sure that they supply the network so we get quicker returns on our internet and lower costs.

De Gouveia: I was just about to ask you, practically speaking what that means for the consumer.

Creamer: The consumer must get a higher quality use of data and activity on the internet and I think we need to come into world levels when it relates to charging.

De Gouveia: What sort of impact is that going to have on the pricing for the future?

Creamer: Well, already it is having an impact because you have got this diversity and this greater choice and when you’ve got the greater choice you always see the costs starting to come down and according to the analysts this is already happeing.

De Gouveia: Lets hope so, with everything else from fuel to interest rates raising perhaps a bit of good news for the consumer. Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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