Important for Africa where the continent’s size makes it impossible to cover by fibre optics
THE R250m satellite designed for the African market will be launched on March 29 with promises of its providing more bandwidth to the continent.The satellite, New Dawn, which is partly owned by Andile Ngcaba’s Convergence Partners, will sit 36000km above Africa and will deliver telephony, broadband internet access and media content to most of the continent for at least 15 years. It will address the capacity backlog faced by African wireless telecom operators, broadband service providers, corporate network service providers and pay-TV television operators.The satellite project, which was completed on time and within budget, was hatched in 2006 as a partnership with global satellite company Intelsat, a Convergence Partners-led consortium, which includes Altirah Capital and the Oppenheimer family’s private equity portfolio. Nedbank , the Industrial Development Corporation and the African Development Bank provided debt financing. Satellite connectivity is important for Africa as the continent’s size made it impossible to cover by fibre optics.New Dawn investors do not promise cheaper bandwidth prices, but its new capacity and wholesale prices are expected to stimulate competition. Idan Segal, chief investment officer at Convergence Partners, yesterday said companies that have bought huge capacity and signed long-term contracts will get "pricing benefits". "The consortium is looking for commercial returns but will do so in a manner that ensures sustainability and stimulates competition in the market," he said.About 60% of New Dawn’s transmission capacity for the entire life of the satellite has already been sold to companies such as Vodacom , Gateway Communications Africa, Bharti Airtel Nigeria and Gilat Satcom. Speaking from Barcelona where he is attending the world mobile conference, Mr Ngcaba said New Dawn was launching at a time when mobile backhaul is critical to connect the continent. "The satellite will not only deliver crucial services specifically tailored for Africa, it will also herald the dawn of a new era where Africans enjoy far greater involvement in the space communications industry."New Dawn will launch from Arianespace’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.