Intelsat 4 Failure Sent SANDF Scrambling for Bandwidth

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The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is still struggling to recover from the loss of C-band capacity this year following the in-orbit failure on the Intelsat 4 satellite at 72 degrees east, according to Brig. Gen. Ian Fordred of SANDF.

Fordred, director of information communication technology in the Command and Management Information Systems Division, said the 10 megahertz of capacity that SANDF had on Intelsat 4 has been replaced by reduced capacity on Intelsat 10 at 68.5 degrees east, and by a lease of capacity aboard Greece’s Hellas Sat satellite at 39 degrees east.

Intelsat 4, which was launched in 1995, is scheduled to be taken out of service in late 2010. Following a major anomaly in February, some of its customers were relocated to other Intelsat satellites. SANDF is one of them. Its 10 megahertz was cut back to 4.5 megahertz on Intelsat 10.

Fordred presented a timeline that showed Intelsat and SANDF reacting to the Intelsat 4 failure within hours after Intelsat announced Feb. 1 that the satellite was in an uncontrolled spin. By Feb. 2, South African defense authorities began plans to secure alternative capacity, and on Feb. 4 Intelsat assigned the 4.5 megahertz on Intelsat 10.

This forced ground technicians to realign dish antennas to the new satellite’s location, a work-around that Fordred said cost about 1.4 million South African rand ($198,000). Since then, defense procurement authorities have been negotiating new capacity.

“Unfortunately this came a bit too quickly,” Fordred said of the Intelsat 4 failure, which forced South African forces to accelerate the search for new capacity after Intelsat 4 is retired. “We need alternative C-band capacity. This has been quite a major problem for us.”