Friday, March 14, 2008

First satellite readies for April launch out of French Guyana


HA NOI — Viet Nam’s first satellite is set to blast off from Korou, French Guyana on April 12, with the aim of boosting the country’s maritime economy.

Vice general director of the Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunication Group (VNPT) Nguyen Ba Thuoc said the satellite would be used for offshore fishermen, oil workers and people living on islands and remote areas of the country as part of the nation’s recently revealed maritime strategy.

"Certainly, the satellite is a commercial project and we expect to make profits but another goal is to provide non-profit telecommunications services in areas which other means of communications find hard to reach."

Thuoc said that the VNPT was proposing that the Ministry of Posts and Telematics uses the public telecommunications fund to subsidise these customers of the satellite services.

The US$200 million Vinasat-1, built by the US giant Lockheed Martin and launched by the European Union Arianespace, is scheduled to go into orbit at 132 degrees east – a position that Viet Nam registered with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 1999.

Vinasat-1 will provide more than 200 digital television channels and tens of thousands of Internet data transmission and telephone channels. The satellite is expected to cover Viet Nam, Laos, Eastern Asian nations, India and Australia. It has a lifespan of 15 years.

The new satellite will save the country around $15 million each year in leasing costs, according to project director Hoang Minh Thong, but in the age of emerging Internet-based telecommunications, satellites are not as economically viable as they used to be.

"Certainly, telecommunications via optical cables are more efficient than satellites," Thong said.

"But as recent events have proved, satellites can provide vital telecommunications services when these cables collapse."

The launch of Viet Nam’s first satellite was also significant in terms of national security, as it would improve the stability for the country’s information network, the project director said. It would also fly the Vietnamese flag in celestial orbit, he added.

National Viet Nam Television will be among the satellite’s first leasers, according to VTV general director Vu Van Hien. Hien said he believed the new satellite would improve his company’s broadcasting services. — VNS