Laos is set to launch its first telecommunications satellite (Lao Sat-1) into the 128.5 degrees East orbital slot on November 21, which has been specifically allocated to Laos.
The US$259 million project will be launched from China but the control system will be in Laos after the launch, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mr Hiem Phommachanh confirmed at a press conference in Vientiane yesterday.
A high-level Lao delegation is preparing to leave for China for the launch of the project, which is considered a landmark in Lao history, aiming to spur many facets of development and industry.
“Everything is now ready for the launch,” Mr Hiem said.
“The Lao Sat-1 will be very beneficial for our country because our country’s terrain includes a lot of mountains. Our satellite can be used for many purposes, including education, health, defence, security, internet, television and so on.”
He explained that there are two orbital slots specifically allocated to Laos, including 128.5 degrees East and 126 degrees East. Under the ‘use it or lose it’ principle, Laos must abide by this guideline within the specific timeframe.
“Actually the timeframe for 128.5 degrees East orbital slot has already finished in May 2015, but we have gone to Geneva to negotiate and got it back,” Mr Hiem said, saying that the timeframe for the 126 degrees East orbital slot will finish in a seven year period.
Despite the fact achievements have been made on this project, Mr Hiem was still concerned about how to recoup the investment capital as the planned satellite will last for 15 years.
In an era of economic competitiveness, it was always a challenge for Laos to earn money from this business to launch the new one to replace it after 15 years.
However Mr Hiem said the many years of experience of the Chinese shareholders in the Lao Sat-1 Joint Venture Company would result in a profitable venture that would also benefit society.
The minister said the Lao Sat-1 will be placed in the slot which covers 15 countries, which means Laos can sell some of its transmission space to other countries because demand in Laos is still small.
Mr Hiem described the achievements and challenges since the start of the project.
Work on the satellite project began in 2006 but was delayed while funding was procured. Then in 2012, the Lao government signed a US$259 million loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China.
“Our main challenges are finance and human resources. We have sent 50 people to train overseas for this project,” he said.
A shareholders’ agreement for the Lao Sat-1 Joint Venture Company was signed in Vientiane on October 30 between the Lao government and the three Chinese developers.
The government will hold a 45 percent stake in the Lao Sat-1 Joint Venture Company, while APMT has a 35 percent shareholding, SSTC has 15 percent, and APST has a 5 percent stake.
Source: Vientiane Times