At the dawn of this third millennium, Africa’s eyes are fixed on space. By launching the new satellite of the African regional communications satellite, called Rascom-QAF1R, Africa is hoping to catch up and develop its technological and telecommunication network.
The take-off of the Ariane 5 rocket without a hitch on 4th August 2010 has finally brought real commercial prospects for this project, which was co-funded by the Libya Africa Investment Fund and more than forty African telecom operators.
It was Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket that powered the telecommunications satellite Rascom to orbit. Covering mainly Sub-Saharan Africa, the satellite, whose construction was entrusted in 1999 to Alcatel-Alenia (now Thales-Alenia), will connect African villages to the Internet without having to install expensive networks. Twenty-eight African countries have already committed to renting its services.
The new satellite has replaced his older brother RQ1, which was put into orbit in December 2007. Victim of a helium leak, the first satellite saw its life expectancy drop from 15 to 3 years. Consequence: there was an urgent need to replace it by the beginning of 2011. That has been achieved.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) identified and listed the project of Pan-African satellite system RASCOM-QAF as basic infrastructure of utmost importance to facilitate the development of new technologies of information and communication.
Like its predecessor, RQ1R strives to provide telecommunications services to African operators and bridge the digital divide by connecting the great cities of the continent with broadband infrastructure but also by bringing phone in remote areas through low-cost terminals.
Hundred and thirty thousand remote villages could be served by VSAT: 15 000 antennas have already been ordered for this purpose and are ready to be installed. Other target clients are televisions, who, with the transition to high definition, have become very large consumers of satellite links. To encourage its progress, Rascom also announced 386 million euros of savings for the telecom sector through the elimination of interconnection fees.
The RASCOM infrastructure will enable national telecommunications operators in Africa to develop a national traffic base designed to render their incomes less dependent on international traffic over which they have less control and could hence increase income opportunities through the inter-African traffic flows generated by direct links between all the African countries and associated islands.