By Emmanuel Elebeke
Abuja—The Federal Government is to commence test-bed trials of Radio Navigation Satellite System by the first quarter of next year.
This was disclosed yesterday by Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu while declaring open the 15th ITU Resolution 609 Consultation meeting and Radio Satellite Services Symposium in Abuja.
According to him, the test-bed trials would also comprise characterization and pilot demonstration of the satellite systems in collaboration with partners, using selected Nigerian Air Force Aircraft and validation by Agency for Aerial Navigation in Africa and Madagascar, ASECNA.
With the proposed trials, the minister said federal government would be diversifying the economy in demonstration of commitment to the realization of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP.
‘‘In collaboration with our partners, we shall commence test-bed trials, characterization and pilot demonstration by first quarter of next year; 2018 using selected Nigerian Air Force Aircrafts and validation by ASECNA, he said.’’
On the planned acquisition of back-up satellite for NigComSat limited, Shittu said it is not only realizable but desirable for the country to draw more patronage and put to an end the capital flight currently being experienced due to lack of confidence by those out-sourcing satellite services.
‘‘We know that we have just one satellite in orbit. , we then liken the situation to a transport company, for instance plying Lagos and Abuja but has no spare tire.
‘‘People who are customized to a particular transport company, if they know that there is no back up, would be discouraged from patronizing such transport company because if there is a tyre burst on the way, they will be stuck. In the same way, with one satellite we have had before which got missing somehow, it sends the wrong signal to people that perhaps if they do business with Nigeria’s satellite company and if there is a problem, what will be the future of their data and their communication services which they enjoy?
‘‘Back-up satellite is always better because satellite business is a very huge business internationally because we do not yet have enough backup, of course we have internationally but it is not like having it localized and being our own property.
‘‘If we have more than that, we would be able to discourage people who are investing in satellite services with other satellite companies overseas.
Currently, so many government agencies patronize foreign satellites and we want to conserve our foreign exchange by ensuring that we can provide all the services that we need to do.
‘‘I believe that if we can proceed to provide more than one satellite then it should be possible for government to insist that, all government entities or all Nigerian entities patronize Nigerian Satellite Company.’’
On how soon it will be expected, the minister said, ‘‘We are still working on it. Our initial plan was to partner with the Chinese company who produces it, to have two at a cost that we agreed on but they required fifteen percent capital pan funding which we didn’t have.
‘‘Even when they felt that perhaps they could give it to us 100%, government still felt that since it is a business if we could get private investors who would be bringing in the satellite as their own counterpart funding to a collaborative business, then it is better so we are not tie down with debt and all that.
‘‘ So we are still working on that and it is my hope that sooner than later, we would have foreign company which will be bringing the industry satellite.’’
The Chief of Air Staff, Ari Marshal Abubakar Sadiq said Nigerian airforce recognizes the use of satellite communication for navigation services and promised to key into the Radio Navigation satellite Systems to enhance security operations.