Bangladesh was yesterday handed over the keys of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 by its manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, meaning the government can finally start monetising the Tk 2,765.66 crore-project.
The government plans to earn foreign currency as well as save them by selling the satellite's transponders to other countries and getting the local television channels to telecast their services through it.
Currently, there are 37 satellite television channels in Bangladesh and they shell out about $14 million every year to use other countries' satellites for broadcasting.
The government has decided to start the satellite's commercial services as early as next week with transmission of state-run satellite television channel BTV.
A high delegation of Thales Alenia Space handed over the transmission and operation management of the country's first-ever communications satellite to the government last evening at the Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Limited (BCSCL) office.
Mustafa Jabbar, telecom and ICT minister; Shyam Sunder Sikder, telecom secretary; Md Jahirul Haque, acting chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission; and Md Mesbahuzzaman, Bangabandhu Satellite-1 project director, signed the documents for formally receiving the satellite's management.
Thales Alenia Space, a Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer, has designed and built the satellite that has been launched into the orbit on May 11 this year.
The code and switch of the satellite will be handed over it to BCSCL in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina within a day or two, said Haque, team leader of the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 project.
“After that the satellite can start commercial operation,” he added.
State-run satellite television channel BTV has already done a number of test runs and found very good quality transmission through the satellite, said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of BCSCL.
“Some private television channels like Ekattor TV will move to Bangabandhu-1 within a short time,” said Mahmood, who was earlier the chairman of the BTRC and led the satellite launching procedures.
Ekattor TV authority said they are seriously considering moving to the country's prestige satellite.
“But before we do that we are holding meetings with the BCSCL authority to iron out some issues,” said Mozammel Haque Babu, chief editor of the television station.
Earlier in September, BTV delivered live coverage of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship 2018 via the satellite, while some other television channels also tested their transmission as well.
“Without getting the full control of the satellite's ownership BCSCL could not go for commercial negotiations. That will now get pace,” Mahmood said.
Thaicom, Thailand's largest satellite operator, was appointed in September to explore the business development prospects of the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 in six countries, including four neighbouring ones. “We are expecting Thaicom to bring business for us and make the satellite a money-making venture for us,” Mahmood added.
According to the initial plan, the satellite venture will be business viable within seven years of its launch.
BCSCL has already signed preliminary agreements with some of the government offices; it has also sought business from banks as well, officials said.