Angola will have more satellites in orbit in several areas of knowledge

Angola Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology José Carvalho da Rocha. Image Source: Jornal de Angola

Angosat-2 is currently being built in France and is due to be in orbit in 2021. The minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, José Carvalho da Rocha, said in an interview with Jornal de Angola that, in addition to this satellite, the country will have others in several areas of knowledge. Regarding the whereabouts of the Angosat-1, it reaffirmed that it continues in orbit, but without transmitting any signal. He clarified that, because of the country’s communication needs, Russia has made available a mini satellite. The minister also addressed the privatization of Angola Telecom, which he assured that will happen this year, without, however, advancing dates or future shareholders.

In April, the Angosat-2 construction process began one year ago. What is the degree of execution of the task? 
Angosat-2 began to be built on April 24, 2018 and we have 36 months to complete it. In this type of construction, not everything is often linear because of the complexity involved. We are building a new satellite, piece by piece, as set out in the contract. We have been talking to the builder, who is Airbus, and the company with which we have established the contract, which is Rosoboronexport. So far, things are going as planned.

Do we have Angolan technicians to follow the process closely? 
Yes, we have several technicians there. We could not get into such a project without forming the people who dominate the area. At the moment, 60 Angolan technicians, among graduates, masters and doctors, framed in different permanent teams, accompany the construction project, step by step.

In Kazakhstan …?
Not! The satellite as such is being built by Airbus in France. After finishing the construction phase, it is moved to Russia, in this case in Kazakhstan, for launch in orbit. As a result, we have established in the contract periods in which we must be in France to assess whether the different stages are being fulfilled. This exercise is done every month and our teams check, evaluate the follow-up of the construction project. There is a sum available from the Executive to support all these training costs and the monthly movement of Angolan technicians to France. We must highlight that of the 60 technicians who accompany the satellite construction process in France, 17 of them are already set there, receiving specialized training in the space area, and two technicians to take a master’s degree course,

Was this done on Angosat-1? 
Yes, there was.

To what extent is the Executive prepared to handle an eventual incident with Angosat-2? 
We do not want to think about a possible incident. We are just running a contract, where are all terms that both parties must follow. We, on the Angolan side, must honor what is established in the contract and the Russian counterpart as well. The relationship that binds us is the contract and fortunately, anyone who has the opportunity to read it will be able to assess whether or not it has been well negotiated. And we, who already read the 3,000 pages of the contract and the 12,000 produced after the renegotiation, we think our negotiators really defended the interests of the country.

This contract is public. Where we can find? 
No. It’s not public yet, because it’s confidential.

There is information according to which Angosat-2 will be more sophisticated than the first. What will be their capacity and if this will involve new costs? 
Angosat-2 will be more sophisticated and with high transmission rates. He was renegotiated to meet the needs that the market today imposes. No additional costs. This establishes the contract. It is a replacement and we had the opportunity here to renegotiate at an advantage. So from our point of view, it was a very well renegotiated contract.

When the Angosat-1 was launched, the members of the Executive – including the Minister – accompanied the process in Moscow, far from the activity carried out in Kazakhstan. Is this time Angola will be present, that is, much more involved? 
It’s important to note the following: we just were not in place because of the weather, there was a lot of snow on that day and Moscow airport was closed. The entire Angolan team was held at Moscow International Airport and due to the worsening weather conditions the flight to Kazakhstan was canceled. We had a technical team in Kazakhstan that watched the launch. But just as the Angolans were here in Angola, we were also following the process in Moscow. There was always involvement of the Angolan team.

What was in fact the basis of the failure to launch Angosat-1? 
To this day, the teams continue to evaluate what actually happened with Angosat-1. According to information we have, the satellite remains in orbit.
There are still a number of variables that are being studied.

We have heard its being tracked in Peru, Indonesia, even in … Cazenga and this is not true. 
The information is that it is in orbit, but stopped transmitting the signal when it was precisely rotating to align the solar panels towards the Sun. There are 1500 kilos to do a rotation and this caused disruption to the equipment. These and other issues need to be thoroughly evaluated. What we have done is the contract. Not having fulfilled the stage of the launch, we were forced to look at the contract. The worst would be if the contract did not predict such situations. The country would have lost a lot of value.

In that perspective, the Angosat-1 is a case to forget …
For us, it is a case to forget. Now we are looking at Angosat-2.

We know that Russia has made some compensation … Are they responding to Angola’s communication needs?
The compensation is the contract. At the moment, what I can say is that we have been using these compensations to maintain a series of services that we think are priorities, such as the issuance of Identity Card (ID), Social Security. We are now doing with the Ministry of Health, through these compensations, the Telemedicine project, which is being implemented in Huambo. We will now work with Moxico and Lunda-Sul and some hospitals here in Luanda. These compensations will also be extended to the Ministry of Education, in order to install Internet in schools; we are going to launch a series of public services. In summary, to date, the compensation is guaranteeing the materialization of the various social projects planned and scheduled in Angosat-1. On 25 February, we will begin to endure some of the difficulties TPA had in some satellites. We already covered 16 MHZ and thought to increase to cover what is missing.

How does the Executive plan to monetize the services of Angosat-2 to recover the investment? 
The Angosat-2 is a great deal. That is why not all countries in the world are organized to build a satellite. It’s not easy. This investment is recoverable. Let’s see: if we make some simple accounts, we find that our operators, only in satellite capacity, spend 20 to 15 million dollars per month. In two years, they are 360 ​​million dollars and our project costs 320 million dollars. Angosat-2 is projected to be in orbit for about 15 years, plus a tolerance of about three years, which totals 18 years. Imagine! Is it really a big deal or not? (…) The State will have many services that will be made available to operators and not only and can recover this investment.

Angola will be able to sell services to the SADC Region? 
We first want to cover our internal needs because it was designed for this, and then the surplus we can sell to our region.

Telecommunication experts argue that the need to use satellite services has dramatically decreased in the country in recent years with the construction of fiber-optic cables at provincial and municipal level, covering more than 50 percent of the entire national territory. Would it be feasible to build Angosat-2, whose costs are extremely high, when we could rationalize resources, opting for fiber optics?
I do not agree with that. We have to always look for redundancies which are a principle of telecommunications. In the same way that fiber-optic infrastructures have been built with the constraints we have, we will also have a satellite to reach those areas where the fibers have not yet arrived. And it is this aspect of redundancy that is essential to maintain in communications. We are not just looking at the infrastructure; we are also looking at the medium that will help our country acquire the foreign exchange it needs. We must have ambition. Above all, we are going to the quest for knowledge. The country only develops with more knowledge and, especially, if we bring it inside. They are visions of development.

It is said that the maintenance costs of this satellite will be high. Who will cover and how much will you spend annually? 
They are not high. They are the common ones we have. Now, we need to prepare people to be able to maintain the different bands that they will be able to provide. The maintenance amount will not be significant.

How will those on the ground connect to the satellite? With what equipment? Are they bought? Where will they be installed and what is the investment to do? 
The satellite stems from a need to have one more infrastructure to cover the whole country and facilitate the provision of services to the population in the areas of telecommunications and information technologies. On land, we have the Operations Center, in Funda, ready to manage infrastructures, when in orbit. We’re not just buying equipment. We are also making transfers of technology, fundamentally of knowledge, with the Center of Funda. It is a state-of-the-art Center in the SADC region, which will actually serve to control equipment when in orbit.

There are African countries that have satellites that are much cheaper than ours … Satellite prices depend on the missions for which each was designed. With the entry into orbit of the Angosat-2 the telecommunications tariffs should lower?
The Angosat-2 will be an infrastructure that will allow to carry the communication to all the territory. It will also allow many of our companies that use their services to download part of their prices. There are other associated costs that are beyond our reach, such as equipment connected to telecommunications services. These are not manufactured in Angola, including the final terminals, opening of more operators. All this set of variables, when they integrate, we will, of course, have more competition, more quality and more affordable prices.

Mr Minister, will this price reduction influence the entry of a new telephone operator into the market? 
There will in fact be one more global operator, besides Angola Telecom, which already has a license to provide mobile telephony services. We will have four operators there to provide mobile services. Of course, our options as customers can influence the price reduction and improvement of services.

Can you advance the name of this operator? 
We are in the final stages of this process. As soon as we finish, we’ll call the press

Why so suspense around it? 
We better wait for the end of the process.

Is the information on the attribution of a license for the Vodacom Company operating in the country confirmed?
The new licensing regime, enshrined in Presidential Decree 108/16 of 25 May, which approves the General Electronic Communications Regulation (RGCE), provides for two categories of qualifying certificates, namely a Unified Global Title (TGU) ) and a Multiservice License (LMS). It is incumbent only upon the holder of the Executive Power to authorize the issue of a TGU, thus giving rise to the conclusion of a Concession Agreement. In turn, LMS is a purely administrative process and includes all electronic communications services, with the exception of mobile telephony and pay-TV services. Therefore, Vodacom, like other operators active in the electronic communications market, was awarded a Multiservice License at the beginning of 2018. Angola Telecom’s privatization is for this year

There is already a year that talks about the privatization of Angola Telecom. Is there justification for so much slowness? 
The privatization process will start later this year. You know that an Interministerial Commission has been created that is taking care of this aspect. What we are doing is what we call housework: evaluation of assets, assets, etc.

Are there critics who argue that there should be a valuation of Angola Telecom assets before privatization? 
Assets continue to be valued. He knows that the state made investments in the company. You are having an information system capable of running the business. Here is a valuation. There have also been investments and new platforms, which allow a valuation today.

Will there be transparency in the contest when it is opened? 
Yes. When the privatization process happens, the terms of reference will be produced and the press will be a medium that we will use for the disclosure. In principle, we intend to privatize 45 percent of the company. The question of officials will be safeguarded. It is not an easy process, but we will carry out and safeguard all the objectives set.

Can you predict what the state will collect with part of this privatization? 
As a result of internal work being done, a value will be determined. The fundamental question is not the value that the state will raise, but that is able to attract an investor that meets the requirements of the global license that the company already has.

Are there any competitors yet? 
I believe there will be several competitors.

What is the company’s current debt? 
Debt is being assessed, but it is not significant. In this work from home, this liability is being assessed. The debt is payable.

Has Angola Telecom been in any way harmed by previous directorates? 
The company has undergone several transformation processes in the last ten years, which have been evaluated in order to make the best decisions.

Angola Telecom is a representative of the State in a consortium with Angola Cables and has been completely cut off from the management and control of the WACS cable management project, in order to interconnect its Customers. Since the beginning of the commercialization of the WACS cable capacity, Angola-Telecom has never received the return of the value invested in participating in this business. It does not even have benefits, only obligations. What do you have to comment?
It is not easy to develop a business of the size that is being developed by An-gola Cables. This company is a consortium of several companies, where the State, through Angola-Telecom, represents 51 percent. We made a primary investment in 2012, which was with the WACS cable, whose overall value was $ 112 million. Of this amount, the State entered with 51 million dollars. It was the construction of the cable linking South Africa to London and that, via Angola Cables, we represented 11.3 per cent of the capital of this cable. We are now developing another project, which is the linkage of Angola to Brazil, 100 percent assumed by Angola Cables and also in association with Google and two other companies in South America, in the construction of the cable between Miami (United States of America). America) and Brazil. Our primary goal is to make it possible for us to quickly access the Internet and to enable our educational and research institutions and others to access the information we currently have deposited in Brazil and the United States. We can make of Angola a route of passage of the traffic that comes from America. It knows that the traffic of the countries of South America to Asia necessarily passes through Brazil, the USA, London and Middle East and only then reaches the destination. Of course, we are consolidating the business. We already have some results. We will continue to consolidate it so that in fact all partners can take their dividends. It must be remembered that it is not an easy business. We must be able to sell this service, both inside and outside our country.

Are you saying that the idea that Angola Telecom is not receiving dividends is false …
The companies made investments and are now consolidating and then taking dividends. Angola Cables is a consortium, has a pact that regulates relations among shareholders. Of course, Angola-Telecom, as a majority partner, has an important voice in the decisions it makes. It is within this scope that, at any time that you feel harmed, you should complain.

What lessons can be drawn from the broad process of privatization that the state is preparing? 
These are new processes in which we have learned a great deal. And our teams are better prepared for upcoming challenges that require a public tender.


This interview first appeared on Jornal de Angola



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