BRUSSELS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat is moving an in-orbit spacecraft to an orbital slot covering Afghanistan and renaming it Afghansat 1 following a strategic partnership with the Afghan government, the two parties announced Jan. 29.

Afghanistan thus becomes the latest emerging nation to move toward its own satellite capacity instead of continuing conventional leases with established operators. 

The agreement confirms “Afghanistan’s entry into the commercial satellite business,” Eutelsat and the Afghanistan Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said in a joint statement.

Under the multiyear agreement, Paris-based Eutelsat will move its Eutelsat 28B spacecraft, formerly called W3M, from its current slot at 28.5 degrees east to 48 degrees east by the end of February. From there, the satellite, rebranded as Afghansat 1, will cover the whole of Afghan’s national territory and a large slice of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The two sides will explore a longer-term relationship as well, the statement said. Financial terms of the lease of Afghansat 1 were not disclosed. 

The satellite, launched in December 2008, was built by European and Indian contractors and suffered an on-board failure that reduced its capacity. Eutelsat has estimated that it will continue operations, at reduced capacity, until mid-2020.

Afghan Communication and Information Technology Minister Amirzai Sangin said in a statement that the satellite “is a new milestone in the development of the ICT [Information and Communications Technologies] in Afghanistan, which in the last 12 years has already seen mobile telephony coverage of 88 percent and penetration grow from zero to 75 percent through the licensing of six operators.”

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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.