Mobile Week with GSM

June 14, 2009

‘Failure of NigComSat1 shouldn’t discourage ICT dev in Nigeria’

By Laide Akinboade
Mr. Andrew Aroh is the President, Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), Nigeria. The Society, with international Headquarters in New York, United States of America (USA), concerns itself with professional issues in the satellite communications industry. In this interview with, Laide Akinboade, he bares his mind on moves by the body to enhance expertise in telecommunications among Nigerians and promote networking among professionals.



Congratulations on  the launch of the SSPI in Nigeria. How will the society benefit Nigerians?
The satellite communication industry is very important for a developing nation such as Nigeria. That is exactly why we decided to be the vanguard for satellite communication industry in Nigeria professionally.

If you talk about satellite communication, it is the cheapest, compared to other technologies like fibre and other wireless network. You can get that done faster than other technologies. For instance, if you are to lay fibre to our villages, by history and topology, it won”t be possible. So, we have to use the cheapest and quickest way to do that and that is through the satellite communication technology.

The inauguration of this association in Nigeria must be a dream come true of some sorts…… how do you feel?
When you talk about communication, it is not only voice.

The data aspect is even the most important. When it comes to data communication, satellite is the best. When we now entrench the satellite technology into the Nigerian communication system, it will really be of use to our developmental initiative. We can use data communication for things like disaster management. When you talk about water resources, when you talk about agriculture, when you talk about monitoring and control, all these could be done through the satellite.

How do you describe the status of ICT infrastructure in the country?  It”s a little below average but we don”t have to wait. Like somebody said, there are industries that keep on growing and you don”t have to wait. If you wait, you could be left behind. For that reason, we have to move ahead and strive to improve the infrastructure, so that we can also make use of the technology as it grows.

So what are the plans in place to ensure your society help in repositioning ICT and creating awareness among Nigerians?

There is what we call mentorship programme, which involves professional training and going round the universities to educate and increase awareness on the career in satellite communication. We go down that way because when you talk about rebranding, you have to go down the lower rung of the ladder, so that we can train engineers in the universities who can now become the designers of satellite. Remember most older people in Nigeria do not know much about satellite communication. That is why we want to use those in the tertiary institutions to spread the news on satellite professionalism in Nigeria.

There is no way we will talk about satellite without talking about space technology. Our first attempt at Sat-1 failed. Looking at what happened from a professional point of view, do you think we should still go ahead with such projects?  Such failures also happened in developed countries.

So, it is not a question of whether we are developing or not. Probably, it must have been caused by metriods distracting the solar panel of the satellite which also happens with even Intel Sat and other bigger satellite companies. It”s not a function of whether we are still developing or not. The issue is that it could happen to even developed or developing countries. So, we should not focus on that part. We should focus on how we could provide more satellites to take care of our communication needs. We find out what happened and then take corrections, so that by the time we build more satellites, we do not have such fatal accidents again.

What is the relationship between space technology and ICT?
ICT is like an umbrella. Space technology could be in form of microbiology, biology and then you talk of the technology itself, you talk of engineering and all that. But when you talk about ICT, it tries to provide the infrastructure that makes use of the processes in the space to transmit information.
How do you think we can improve our ICT with satellite?

ICT tries to provide the infrastructure, while the space science provides the processes. If you have the infrastructure, it cannot just do anything, until there is a process for it to accomplish something. So, what the space technology does is to provide the process that enables the infrastructure to communicate with each other.
How did you think the failed Nigcom-Sat 1 affected ICT in Nigeria?

The Nigerian Communication Satellite1 failed because of the Solar Panel power failure, it could have happened even if we were advanced. Unfortunately, we were not advanced and that was the second one after Nigerian Sat-1. We shouldn”t bruise on that. We should actually look at what happened and take corrections and build more satellites. The problem is the bandwidth. We don”t have enough bandwidth. If we wait for the white man to provide bandwidth, they may have to provide enough bandwidth for themselves before thinking of providing for ourselves.

If we have our own satellite and we have our own gateways here, then we can also provide enough bandwidth for our use.

The NCC Vice-Chairman said there is need for us to improve our broadband base in Nigeria. How can we do that?
When you talk about broadband, you talk of provision of voice, data and video. With the spread of GSM, we are all used to the voice. So space infrastructure now takes care of the broadband aspect. You can still get broadband through fibre.

But, like I said, it is slow and extensive and due to our history and topography and geography, it is not possible. We cannot capture the rural area. So, we have to look for a quick, easy and cost effective way to get that done. The only way to get that done is through satellite. The training of satellite technology is lacking now and that is the aspect we should focus.