With over N144 billion ($362 million) spent on its building and more on the construction of ground station infrastructure, the country’s communications satellite is still idle in the ongoing switchover from analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcasting.
The reason: there is no backup to switch to, if the satellite, for any reason, packs up, prompting a warning by experts that the entire DDT broadcasting could hit the rocks in the event of a system failure.
Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, was, however, quoted recently as saying: “The process of digitalisation is unstoppable and irreversible; it’s not a matter of choice. If we do not follow the world to digitalise and meet the June 2017 target, it means our telephones, televisions and radios would not be free from interference.
Mohammed confirmed to The Guardian: “When the White Paper on utilisation came out, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the digital team set up by government, paid a visit to Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) and explained to them how ready they were to patronise them. But unfortunately, as we speak today, NIGCOMSAT has no redundancy. In other words, they have no backup. If we sign with them and for any reason the satellite goes down, it means we cannot transmit.”
He stated, however, that as soon as NIGCOMSAT scaled the hurdle, the Federal Government would have no choice but resort to the main local player.
Mohammed’s position corroborates that of his Communications counterpart, Adebayo Shittu. At the end of the National Council on Communication Technology (NCCT) in Kaduna, last week, Shittu highlighted the fears of investors and users about losing data to an unreliable satellite.
He disclosed government’s plans to procure two backups for NIGCOMSAT at the cost of $550 million. “Once that is done, we can beat our chest and say, ‘nobody should take Nigerian money outside for the purpose of storing data’. I am confident that with the Federal Government’s approval, we will get what we want.”