Bangabandhu satellite may miss deadline

The launch of Bangladesh's first satellite is facing a setback due to delays in awarding related jobs after the original deadline to complete the project expired in June.

The government now has a plan to launch the satellite -- Bangabandhu-1, meant for communication and broadcast services -- on December 16, 2017 and use the following six to eight months to fine-tune its orbital position.

Bangladesh bought the orbital slot from Intersputnik, a Russian satellite company, for $28 million early this year, and the purchase contract mandates launch of the satellite by June 2018. If delayed, both money and the orbit will be forfeited.

If launched in time, the orbit will remain valid for fifteen years, after which, the deal will have to be renewed.

The foreign companies that have participated in the bidding are of the opinion that there is not enough time left to install and launch a commercial satellite for an inexperienced country like Bangladesh.

A bidder said, even if the work order is given now, it will take at least 26 months to launch the satellite.

But project officials remain confident. “Though we are not on schedule, we are confident that we can complete everything according to plan,” said Md Golam Razzaque, the project director of the Bangabandhu-1 satellite.

On June 18, Bangladesh Telecommunica-tion Regulatory Commission received bids from four companies -- France's Thales Alenia Space, China's Great Wall Industry Corporation, USA's Orbit ATA and Canada's MDA.

Work orders were supposed to be given by the first week of September, but the evaluation committee is yet to do so.

To approve any bid, the technical evaluation committee first needs to present its report to the line ministry, which will then recommend it to the government's purchase committee. Next, it will await prime minister's approval before the work orders can be awarded to any bidder.

The proposal will need Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's approval twice, both before and after the purchase committee's nod, as she is also the minister for posts, telecommunication and ICT, officials working on the project said.

The project implementation committee has already extended the tender validation date to November 30, from the previously fixed date of October 15, a top executive of a bidder company said. "The date will need to be extended further.”

Officials of the project implementation committee have also voiced concern about meeting the deadline, especially because the decision is complex as three of the four bidders do not even have their own launching pads. 

The satellite is so far the most sophisticated technological project undertaken by Bangladesh, worth about Tk 2,967.96 crore. Of the amount, some Tk 1,652.44 crore will be from foreign loans and the government will supply Tk 1,315.51 crore. Of the loans, 85 percent will have to be brought in by the winning bidder.

All the bidders agree that it will be difficult to launch the satellite in time. “None can maintain the December 2017 deadline under the current circumstances,” said Zakir Hossen, a local consultant of the Great Wall Industry Corporation.

“Only Great Wall has a chance of meeting the deadline as we have our own launching pad,” he said.

Great Wall is currently the fourth choice out of the bidders, as it has the highest stipulated costs, and MDA is the first choice for its lowest bid of $222.75 million, officials said. Thales Alenia Space of France is the second lowest bidder with $248 million.

However, financial aspects are not the only criteria to select the best bidder, as the technical sides also have to be considered, officials said.

Currently Bangladesh's satellite-related needs are met by renting bandwidth from different operators, for almost $14 million a year, with the costs increasing every year.

Once launched, Bangabandhu-1 will save this annual cost, and bring in foreign currency by leasing out half its capacity to Saarc nations, as well as countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, if the frequencies are properly coordinated.

The telecom regulator hopes to break even in seven years. The satellite will narrow the digital divide, as it will help take broadcast and telecom services to rural areas, and allow the launch of some lucrative ventures like direct-to-home services throughout the country.


৭ ঘণ্টা আগে|বাংলাদেশ

বাংলাদেশ-ভারত সেনাবাহিনীর মধ্যে সহযোগিতা জোরদার করা উচিত: প্রধানমন্ত্রী

বৈঠক শেষে প্রধানমন্ত্রীর বক্তৃতা লেখক এম নজরুল ইসলাম সাংবাদিকদের ব্রিফ করেন।