Ismail Indonesia
Ir. Ismail, director general of resources and equipment of post and information technology, for Indonesia's Ministry of Communications and Informatics, speaking July 3 at the APSAT 2018 conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. Credit: SpaceNews/Caleb Henry

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The government of Indonesia aims to team up with a satellite operator to build, launch and operate a high-throughput satellite to bring internet access to unreached parts of the island nation.

A representative of Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Informatics said that the ministry intends to award a contract by the end of this year with the goal of having the satellite in orbit by 2022.

“We are targeting 145,000 public sites including schools, hospitals, as well as government offices in areas across Indonesia, with expected capacity [of] at least 150 Gbps,” Ir. Ismail, the ministry’s director general of resources and equipment of post and information technology, said July 3 at the APSAT 2018 conference here. “[The] multifunctional satellite program aims to support the expansion of broadband infrastructure in Indonesia.”

Indonesia, like Australia with its National Broadband Network and Brazil with its SGDC satellite, intends to use government satellite communications to ensure the availability of connectivity to citizens beyond the scope of existing infrastructure.

As things stand today, a 150 Gbps satellite — plus another 50 Gbps of capacity the government intends to lease from other satellites — would make Indonesia’s satellite program the highest capacity system designated purely for the purpose of closing a single nation’s digital divide.

Ismail said that Indonesia’s domestic telecom satellite operators — Telkom Indonesia, Pacific Satellite Nusantara, MCI, Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Indosat Ooredoo — provide less than half of the nation’s satellite services. The majority comes from foreign operators that he described as needed but so far insufficient.

“To date, Indonesia’s satellite demand cannot be met by Indonesia’s satellite industry,” he said.

Indonesia is one of the world’s most dynamic markets for satellite communications. As the planet’s largest island nation, geography is a challenge to relying on fiber, cell towers and other terrestrial infrastructure to connect Indonesia’s population of 260 million spread across some 17,000 islands.

That same challenge has drawn the interest of numerous satellite operators. In a July 3 presentation, Telkom Indonesia said 44 foreign satellites provide communications services throughout Indonesia.

Indonesia Government Multifunctional Satellite
A graphic showing targeted use cases for the Indonesian Government Multifunctional Satellite as included in a Telkom Indonesia presentation. Credit: SpaceNews/Caleb Henry

Two Indonesian satellite operators presenting immediately after Ismail said the broadband is a relatively new service for satellites, and they are adjusting to this new application.

Abdus Somad Arief, director of Telkom Indonesia’s Wholesale and International Service division, said most of the capacity on the company’s two satellites are busy backhauling traffic for the company’s Telkomsel cellular business. Telkom Indonesia’s upcoming satellite, the SSL-built Merah Putih (formerly Telkom-4) launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 this summer to replace Telkom-1 — a satellite that exploded in orbit last year. Telkom officials have declined to state a reason for Telkom-1’s major anomaly, though the Lockheed Martin-built satellite was 18 years old, operating three years past its design life.

Arief said Telkom Indonesia needs the Merah Putih satellite also for cellular backhaul. The company has only recently started providing satellite broadband he said, and has “a few thousand users.”

Adi Rahman Adiwoso, CEO of Pacific Satellite Nusantara, praised the Indonesian government initiative, calling it “an affirmative action by the government to ensure that the whole country will have a broadband access.”

Adiwoso said the partnership arrangement calls for the private sector to procure the satellite, and then the government will take the entirety of its capacity for 15 years.

“The capex will be borne by the private sector and the revenue will be generated from the government contracts,” he said.

Ismail said Indonesia’s government does require the industry partner to provide the orbital slot. That stipulation means the industry partner will also need access to the Ku- and Ka-band frequencies Indonesia intends to use for broadband access.

Imran Malik, SES Networks vice president for the Asia Pacific, said SES is interested in participating in the government HTS program as part of a consortium with a local Indonesian partner.

“We are actively exploring discussions, and definitely if we can provide some value in the discussions for a multi-function satellite … then definitely there is interest in doing that from SES’s perspective,” he said. He did not name any prospective partners SES would work with on the program.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...