Bangabandhu Satellite 1, installed at a cost of Tk 2,702 crore, is yet to earn a penny in seven months of its launch with 15-year lifespan while technical complexity and lack of preparation have surfaced.
Although the government earlier said that the satellite would realise its cost within seven years of its launch, unsold state of its capacity raised suspicion if the project would be a commercially success or remain as a ‘national pride’.
Immediate-past posts, telecommunications and ICT minister Mostafa Jabbar earlier stated that the satellite was not just for technical or commercial purpose, but it was also a pride of the country.
Bangladesh Television along with three of its wings — BTV World, Sangsad Bangladesh Television and BTV Chattogram — and four other private television channels are running trial broadcast using the satellite, installed with 14 C-band and 26 Ku-band Transponders each having capacity of 36 Megahertz bandwidth, said top officials at Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Limited, a government-owned company formed to run the satellite.
Besides, three government agencies — fisheries department, shipping ministry and cabinet division — have signed agreement for using the service, but none of them are paid subscriber of the satellite, launched on May 11, 2018 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in the United States.
RealVU, first direct-to-home satellite service provider in Bangladesh that has been running service using the Bangabandhu Satellite on trial, is expected to sign contract with the company.
The company is yet to sign any commercial agreement to lease out capacity of the Bangabandhu Satellite 1 while commercial satellite companies usually lease out a major portion of their capacity before the launch, said officials at the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, associated with operation of the satellite company.
About technical complexity, company chairman Md Shahjahan Mahmood said that installation of separate equipment and high power amplifier was needed required at the receiver-end of television channels’ signals.
Incompatibility between the existing technology and the technology used in Bangabandhu Satellite is the main reason behind the complexity, said Shahjahan, adding that the equipment was not available in Bangladesh market prompting the company to import 60 high power amplifiers from the United States for trial run of television broadcasting using the satellite.
He said that the company would take measures to make the equipments available in Bangladesh market.
Asked if the TV channels would feel comfortable with the use of Bangabandhu Satellite for broadcasting until the equipment was installed at the cable TV operators’ end, he said, ‘They might not but I hope that cable TV operators would install the technology as it would be available within next 15 days.’
The company was also facing problem as the television channels cannot broadcast signals directly from the stations using their own equipments incompatible with the technology of used in the satellite along with its location in the orbital slot.
‘To solve the problem, TV channels would send signals to BS 1 landing station located in Gazipur using fibre and the signals would be transmitted to BS 1 from there,’ Shahjahan said.
He expressed hope that all local televisions would be able to operate commercial broadcasting using the satellite by January 2019.
At a discussion in April 2018, Association of Television Channel Owners vice-president Mozammel Babu said that television channels needed to maintain 45 degree angle to connect the satellite placed in 119.1 degree orbital slot for which a six-storey building might cause problem.
‘We have already tested with a satellite placed in 121 degree orbital slot to understand how effectively we could be connected to a satellite at such an angle,’ he said.
Speaking about the performance of 26 Ku-band transponders, Mozammel, also Ekattor TV managing director, said that the transmission under the Ku-band was interrupted even by a single drop of rain.
Besides taking initiative to solve the technical problem in using the satellite by the Bangladeshi TV channels that would consume 10 per cent of total capacity of the 40 transponders, the company initiated a move to lease out service to South Asian countries alongside Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkestan and a part of Kazakhstan.
As part of the move, Thailand’s satellite company Thaicom has been appointed for two years under a revenue sharing model with the company.
A company official said that the company had so far received a couple of proposals from foreign companies to take service from it.
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