New launch date for new African telecommunications satellite

12th April 2011 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

A new date has been announced for the launch of Africa’s newest telecommunications satellite, Intelsat New Dawn. Originally scheduled to have been launched on March 30, the satellite will, all being well, lift off from Europe’s Kourou launch complex in French Guiana on April 22.

The first launch attempt was scrubbed just seconds before lift off when an onboard computer detected an abnormal parameter in the Ariane 5 ECA rocket during the automated checkout which followed the ignition of the main, liquid-fuelled engine.

The engine was automatically shut down and the launch rocket was subsequently returned to the Final Assembly Building for examination and is now undergoing preparation there for the next launch attempt.

New Dawn carries 28 C-band and 24 Ku-Band 36 MHz transponder units and will be positioned above the equator at 32,8 ˚ East longtitude. It will cover the whole of Africa, part of Europe, some of the Middle East and Pakistan.

The satellite is intended to meet the rapidly growing demand in Africa – the continent’s market for satellite communications services had been growing at an average rate of 7% annually for the past four years.

Indeed, Africa was the fastest growing region in the world for Intelsat during for 2008 and 2009, and the continent’s business is now worth some $400-million a year to the global group.

Customers already signed up for New Dawn include Vodacom, Telecom Namibia and Bharti Airtel, and most of the satellite’s capacity has already been sold.

It is the first communications satellite that is predominantly owned by the African private sector and it is a joint venture between Intelsat and an African consortium led by South Africa’s Convergence Partners.

New Dawn has been funded with a mixture of equity (15%) and debt (85%). Of the equity, 74,9% is held by Intelsat and 25,1% by a consortium headed by Convergence Partners, which includes Altirah Telecoms and the not-for-profit Convergence Partners Foundation.

Regarding the debt, 10% of the financing comes from Intelsat and 90% from African institutions, including Nedbank, the African Development Bank and South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation.

Intelsat is the world’s leading satellite communications company, with 53 satellites in orbit and about 1 800 customers around the world, of which some 200 are in Africa.