Nigcomsat-1R Launched Successfully by Long March

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PARIS — The successful Dec. 20 launch of Nigeria’s Nigcomsat-1R telecommunications satellite aboard a Chinese Long March 3B rocket will help offset Nigeria’s annual bill of more than $1 billion in leasing capacity aboard foreign satellites, Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said Dec. 20.

Industry officials said the estimate is far in excess of what Nigerian government and private telecommunications operators now spend on satellite bandwidth, especially since the recent drop in prices as high-capacity cable has arrived on the African coast, forcing down satellite lease prices in the region.

Now in orbit some four and one-half years after the first Nigcomsat satellite was launched by China, and subsequently failed in orbit due to a solar-array deployment problem, Nigcomsat-1R is expected to enter service in the spring of 2012 and operate for 15 years at 42.5 degrees east.

Like its predecessor, Nigcomsat-1R is based on China’s DFH-4 satellite platform, which since two successive in-orbit failures — the first was a Chinese telecommunications satellite — has had successful in-orbit operations for Chinese and other customers.

Launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the 5,100-kilogram Nigcomsat-1R carries 28 transponders: 14 in Ku-band, eight in Ka-band, four in C-band and two in L-band, with the L-band capacity to be used for mobile communications. It is designed to operate for 15 years.

The original Nigcomsat-1 program cost Nigeria about $300 million including the satellite’s construction, launch and insurance for its first year in orbit. Insurance proceeds from the loss of the satellite paid for the construction of Nigcomsat-1R.

The Nigerian president’s assessment that his nation spends more than $1 billion annually, which was reported on the presidency’s website, is difficult to reconcile with current satellite lease rates of no more than around $1.5 million per year per transponder equivalent to 36 megahertz.

Nigerian officials in the past have said publicly that Nigerian demand for satellite capacity totals around 75 billion Nigerian naira, or $455 million, per year. Industry officials said even this figure is far more than what is actually booked.