Africa's New Dawn satellite in orbit

Intelsat New Dawn, Africa’s new communications satellite, blasted into orbit from Arianespace’s rocket station in Kourou, French Guiana on 22 April. The satellite has 90% African, including South African, funding, and promises to boost communications on the continent.

Intelsat New Dawn blasted into space via the Ariane 5 rocket, which to date has lifted off almost 60 times with satellite payloads.

The satellite took off successfully from commercial space transport company Arianespace’s rocket complex in Kourou, after its initial launch on 29 March was aborted.

Ariane 5, one of the world’s most successful launch vehicles, also took the Yahsat 1A satellite to space on the same day. This communications satellite will serve the Middle East primarily, and will also offer services to customers in Africa and Southwest Asia.

Intelsat New Dawn is specifically designed to improve communications within the African continent. According to its owners, because it operates from a geostationary orbital slot at 32.8° east, it’s well placed to bolster Africa’s telecommunications capacity.

Its 28 C-band and 24 Ku-band 36 MHz transponder units are tailor-made to provide critical communications infrastructure for African customers, Intelsat said.

“Intelsat New Dawn will be ideally positioned to serve Africa through a payload optimised to deliver new capacity for voice, wireless backhaul, fixed line and wireless infrastructure, broadband and media,” read Intelsat’s statement.

New Dawn will be part of Intelsat’s well-established satellite fleet that caters for almost the entire world.

“Intelsat New Dawn will be integrated with the resilient Intelsat fleet, allowing us to expand and enhance the vital communications services that are provided by our customers to business consumers throughout Africa,” Intelsat CEO Dave McGlade said in the statement.

With a life span of at least 17 years, Intelsat New Dawn comes at a time when the continent’s telecoms sector needs to take full advantage of upcoming long-haul submarine and terrestrial broadband cables, following the recent launch of others like Seacom and Eassy.

Intelsat owns a 10% stake at New Dawn after it provided the bulk of the 15% equity investments. African investors hold a combined 90% majority.

The local funders, which include financial provider Nedbank, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, the African Development Bank and investment management firm Convergence Partners, provided both equity and debt funding.

“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,” said Convergence Partners chairman Andile Ngcaba.

Terrestrial fibre cable partnership


Convergence Partners is also a partner in Johannesburg-based FibreCo Telecommunications, a venture that plans to implement a new long-haul terrestrial fibre-optic broadband network in South Africa. Local companies Cell C and Internet Solutions are the other investors in the 12 000km open-access cable.

The first phase of construction will see a 4 500km redundant core ring, which will link Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban, being completed by the end of 2012. The entire project will be finished off in two more subsequent phases.

“The project is on track, with good progress being made on the key activities supporting the development of FibreCo’s network, including negotiations with local and international network implementation partners, government authorities and various other market players,” said Arif Hussain, the consortium’s CEO.