Prospect of launching satellite or leasing slots to be explored

Kathmandu, September

Thirty-one long years after the allocation of two orbital slots to Nepal, the government is finally gearing up to explore the possibility of utilising the space. In this regard, an international consultant is being hired to study the feasibility of launching Nepal’s own satellite or leasing the reserved slots to other interested parties.

On behalf of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) will hire a consultant which is expected to start work from January 2016. It recently, invited interested international consultancy firms to submit their expression of interest (EoI) by October 2.

Despite having International Telecommunication Union (ITU) allocated orbital slots since 1984, the government has failed to utilise the fixed satellite service (FSS) capacity so far. Orbital slots refer to the location where satellites are placed and Nepal has been assigned 50 degree east and 123.3 degree east orbital slots to keep satellites. A total of Rs 300 million has been set aside for the satellite feasibility study in the current fiscal year by NTA.

“The consultant will study and come up with reports for utilisation of the slots either by launching the country’s own satellite or leasing the space to other satellite service providers, along with business models,” said Min Prasad Acharya, spokesperson for NTA. As per him, the satellite could be very much helpful in expanding telecom services and reducing bandwidth cost to make telecom service cheaper, among others.

As per NTA, as it is also the advisor to the government, it is helping conduct the study by using the telecom regulator’s own fund. In reality, it is the responsibility of MoIC to handle the satellite issue but it has failed to conduct any necessary study as planned two years ago due to lack of resources. The government, in the budget for fiscal year 2013-14, had also announced of carrying out a feasibility study on satellites.

In the absence of Nepal’s own satellite, Nepali companies are spending huge amounts of money every year for satellite service in telecommunications and broadcasting purposes. The satellite could also be an alternative to optical fibre connection. In a bid to utilise the slots and expand the telecommunication market, NTA plans to consider two options — first, the country could procure and launch its own satellite and second, negotiate a long-term lease with an existing or new satellite service provider.

As per NTA, the consultant will be required to study the national and international legal framework to launch the satellite or to lease the slots, prepare detailed financial model for expanding the satellite capacity, study engineering and economic issues, define implementation/monitoring plan and support the government in procurement process, among others.

The eligibility criteria set for the consultant submitting the EoI include that the firm should have annual revenues of at least $1 million over the last three years and experience of providing consultancy to leading satellite companies and telecoms in Asia, Africa and other emerging markets, among others. Only the firms meeting the criteria will be short-listed for the bidding process.