Satellite boost for African telecoms

11 December 2008

Bermuda-based international satellite service provider Intelsat is partnering with a South African investor group led by Convergence Partners to build and launch a new satellite that will be ideally positioned to serve the African continent.

The satellite, to be called Intelsat New Dawn, will feature a payload optimised to deliver wireless backhaul, broadband and television programming to the continent, and is expected to enter service in early 2011.

Africa has been one of the fastest growing regions for fixed satellite services in recent years, fuelled by demand for critical infrastructure from communications providers and television broadcasters.

Debt and equity funding

The project is expected to cost a total of about US$250-million (about R2.55-billion), and will be funded approximately 85% with debt and 15% with equity, with the largest participants in the debt funding consortium being South Africa’s Nedbank Capital and the Industrial Development Corporation.

Intelsat will provide almost 75% of the equity funding, at approximately $25-million, while the remaining 25% will be provided by South African investment companies Convergence Partners and Altriah Telecoms.

Customers signed up

Over half of the satellite’s capacity has already been reserved for several leading continental companies, including Vodacom International, Gateway Communications Africa, Zain Nigeria and Gilat Satcom.

Intelsat added that pre-orders for satellite capacity currently totalled more than $350-million, with some contracts for up to 15 years of service on the satellite.

“The New Dawn joint venture is a great example of the type of creative investments Intelsat will use to further develop our fleet in regions where we believe there is unmet demand,” Intelsat CEO David McGlade said in a statement this week.

“Once in service, Intelsat New Dawn will be an integral part of our global, resilient satellite network, providing growth capacity and allowing us to further expand our services to our long-time customers in Africa.”

Convergence Partners chairman Andile Ngcaba said the satellite would “provide world-class connectivity, allowing businesses to grow and rural communities to connect.

“Convergence Partners believes that investments in African projects of this nature can offer superior returns while also accelerating the socio-economic development of the continent.”

SAinfo reporter

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