ViaSat Lands Ground Segment Contract for Africa’s RascomStar-QAF

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PARIS — ViaSat Inc. will build and install satellite ground terminals, gateway antennas and other ground gear to provide data and telephone links for Africa’s RascomStar-QAF project under contracts valued at about $53 million, Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat announced July 9.

Mauritius-based RascomStar-QAF is building a satellite-based telecommunications system on behalf of 45 African telecommunications operators.

More than 10 years in the planning as these governments settled financial contribution levels, the first Rascom satellite, Rascom-QAF-1, was launched in December 2007 but suffers a leak in its helium-pressurization tank that was discovered just after launch. The leak will reduce the satellite’s service life to around three years from an expected 15 years.

Rascom-QAF received a $230 million insurance claim and has since ordered a replacement satellite to be built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. Rascom-QAF-1R is currently scheduled for launch in late 2010 and will operate from 2.85 degrees east. The new satellite will carry 12 Ku- and eight C-band transponders.

The Rascom project’s aim is to deploy up to 100 gateway Earth stations and more than 100,000 terminals to establish rural telephone and data links in African villages currently not connected to the telecommunications grid.

Under its contracts with Rascom-QAF, ViaSat will build a broadband-connectivity network based on ViaSat’s LinkWay terminals and including 7.3-meter-diameter gateway Earth station antennas. The contracts include ViaSat provision of a network for rural telephone and Internet access.

ViaSat said the network installation will occur between late 2009 and mid-2010. The contract includes 12 months of in-region network operations support, the company said.