South Africa moves ahead with plan to launch own satellite

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Minister Communications and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Minister Communications and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

  • South Africa is moving ahead with a plan to develop a communication satellite, said Minister of Communications Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
  • However, she did not provide a timeline for the planned project.
  • Owning its own satellite is expected to reduce South Africa's leasing costs.

South Africa is moving ahead with a plan to develop a communication satellite, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said on Wednesday. 

Satellites are used to relay signals used for telecommunications, broadcasting, weather forecasting, navigation, scientific research and earth observation.

Ntshavheni, who took over the communication portfolio in August 2021, said the communication satellite would reduce leasing costs for entities reliant on satellite technologies, including the government.

"To enhance our broadband connectivity reach and in line with the 2016 Cabinet decision, South Africa is now ready to launch its own communication satellite through Sentech in partnership with the National Space Agency and other key stakeholders," Ntshavheni said in a budget speech vote before a parliamentary committee.

The satellite would set up an African central exchange for voice, data and other communication media.

The plan has been on the cards for a number of years and is contained in the summary report and recommendations presented by the commission of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2020.

Developing the satellite could take years to complete, but Ntshavheni did not provide a timeframe for the planned project.

She added that the communication satellite would entrench South Africa’s "technology and data sovereignty".

"This will reduce satellite capacity leasing costs not only for the government but other industries reliant on communication satellite technologies for their businesses and improve information security for our country."

The Fourth Industrial Revolution commission established by President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously recommended that government build and launch a geostationary telecommunications satellite. It said the satellite would offer its services to the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

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