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Wanted: New Philippine satellite

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  • flatdish
    Junior Member
    • Sep 2011
    • 11

    Wanted: New Philippine satellite

    Wanted: New Philippine satellite
    By Art Villasanta, Peter Galace
    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    First Posted 02:27:00 01/17/2011

    Filed Under: Satellite technology, Telecommunications Services, Satellite & Cable Services
    MANILA, Philippines. Sometime in 2012, Agila 2, the Philippines, only in-orbit satellite?will quietly wink out of existence and become one of the more than 600,000 bits of space junk cluttering the four orbital bands above this planet.

    The demise of the $243-million Agila 2, which was launched in 1997, will not only mean the loss of the last Philippine satellite. More ominous is that the death of Agila 2 will also highlight the country's apparent disdain for sophisticated technology that makes possible the wonders of the Internet and ubiquitous mobile telecommunications.

    The loss of Agila 2 will also be a serious blow to our technological independence. It implies future generations of Filipinos will depend on the satellites of competitor nations for secure military and business telecommunications.

    And in a digital age where technology multiplies national power, future Filipinos will become hostage to the whims of other nations.


    We must replace Agila 2 with a new satellite to protect future security and economic gains. And we must not repeat the shameful episode in which Agila 2 was repeatedly sold to foreign companies, thereby losing its unique status as the Philippines? sole territory in space.

    One wonders where the Philippine government was when the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), the majority owner of Mabuhay Satellite Corp. (MSC), lost Agila 2 to foreigners in 2008.

    In September of that year, PLDT and MSC surrendered Agila 2 to ProtoStar Ltd., a start-up DTH (direct-to-home) operator based in Bermuda, in exchange for an equity position in the company.

    PLDT and MSC also allowed expanded ProtoStar use of MSC?s Subic Space Center for the operation and control of satellites. With that deal, Agila 2 became part of the ProtoStar constellation of satellites and was renamed ProtoStar III.

    Chapter 11

    But alas, ProtoStar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States in July 2010 after succumbing to multiple frequency-coordination issues. The company's two satellites ProtoStar I and ProtoStar II were auctioned off to Intelsat and SES, two of the biggest satellite companies in the world.

    In documents filed with the US bankruptcy court in Delaware, it was revealed that ProtoStar owed PLDT $27.5 million, making PLDT its largest unsecured creditor.

    Agila 2 immediately found a new home, however. Official PLDT records showed that on Oct. 22, 2009, MSC entered into agreements with Asia Broadcast Satellite Holdings Ltd. (ABS), another Bermuda company engaged in the satellite business, involving the wholesale lease by ABS of Agila 2.

    Sold again

    MSC sold Agila 2 to ABS for $9.9 million on Jan. 18, 2010. Included in the sale was the cost of customer contracts, permanently affirming the demise of the lone Philippine satellite. After the sale, ABS renamed Agila 2, aka ProtoStar III, ABS-5. So much for patriotism.

    Why do we need a Philippine satellite?

    It would indeed be a pity if we can?t launch and operate another Philippine satellite profitably. Our ASEAN neighbors operate not one but a number of satellites.

    Indonesia has nine satellites; Malaysia has four; Singapore, nine; and Thailand, five. Even Vietnam now controls and profitably operates its own satellite and will launch a second in 2012.

    Quite apart from protecting national security, a satellite is also a money-making machine that brings in advanced technology. The satellite service market in the Philippines in 2010 was valued at some $120 million, quite impressive because of surging demand for ICT services from the private and government sectors. It?s clear a Philippine satellite could be operated profitably.

    Reasons for a satellite

    The Philippines should have its own satellite or satellites for several reasons.

    National security and defense. Given prevailing threats, both foreign and domestic, the Philippines should control its own secure and advanced satellite communications. We cannot and should never rely on foreign satellite companies to handle our military and classified government communications.

    For reliable automated election results. After the automated national elections in May 2010, it seems inconceivable for the country to revert to manual transmission of election results.

    There were 76,000 clustered precincts or polling centers during the polls, of which 35 percent (around 24,000 clustered precincts) used 5,000 satellite antennas to transmit election results.

    Smartmatic tapped We are I.T. Philippines Inc. (WIT), a locally based satellite service provider, to provide satellite services for 79 percent of the municipal and provincial canvassing centers.

    WIT said it used broadband global area network (BGAN) technology to transmit data from remote polling centers and in some instances employed BGANs to transmit data from polling centers in urban areas due to reliability challenges of telcos.

    But here's the rub. WIT used the Singapore government-controlled Thaicom 4, or the iPSTAR satellite, to transmit election results. There are legal issues here about the propriety of relying on a Thai company to transmit our own elections results.

    This means there could be situations in which other governments could hostage the results of our national elections by switching off a satellite during the transmission of election results.

    Philippine telco growth. The Philippine telco industry growth can only be sustained if we have a significant satellite capacity for GSM backhaul requirements for rural cell sites. Thus, a Philippine satellite will not only serve PLDT and Globe Telecom but also provide service to the more than 400 other telco operators.

    Equally important, a new Philippine satellite is needed to support the growth of our multimillion-dollar business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

    Philippine broadcast expansion. With the continued growth of ABS-CBN's and GMA7's international editions, there is an urgent need to increase satellite links to all countries in the world. In addition, cable TV and DTH services are also growing tremendously, thus the need for more Ku-band transponders.

    National Broadband Network. One of the unfortunate plans in the failed National Broadband Network (to have been implemented by ZTE Corp.) is the use of Chinese satellites for this network.

    It's about time we set up an e-gov network using our own Philippine satellite, not only to reduce cost but also for patriotic reasons. Given the archipelagic nature of the Philippines, only a satellite can effectively bridge the country?s digital divide and provide broadband access to the remotest parts of the country.

    Satellite power

    Agila 2 can do all these since it's a versatile communications satellite that transmits telco and broadcast signals to over three billion people in Asia.

    It delivers broadcast television, telephone and data services, and transmits more than 190 channels of high-fidelity digital programming to cable companies and home satellite dishes.

    The satellite also caters to providers of Internet backbone access and video and data broadcasting. It provides bandwidth-on-demand, facilitating communication links between telecommunications, broadcast and other public utility companies operating in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Dream TV

    Agila 2 handles more than 50,000 simultaneous two-way telephone conversations. Its launch in 1997 opened the door for the growth of the Philippine DTH satellite service with the operation of Dream TV.

    Agila 2 has a total of 30 C-band (for telco) and 24 Ku-band (for broadcast) transponders. Transponders (short for transmitter-responder) are the communications satellite?s channels. Each transponder is an automatic device that receives, amplifies and retransmits a signal on a different frequency.

    In February 2001, MSC received a certification from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), establishing Agila 2 as the first Asian satellite on the FCC?s ?Permitted Space Station? list.

    The certification meant Agila 2 fully complies with FCC?s technical requirements and allowed US-owned and operated earth stations in Hawaii to turn around Agila 2 signals to the mainland United States via satellite or submarine cables.

    Guts, patriotism

    Neither PLDT nor MSC has issued any concrete plans to replace Agila 2. Ordinarily, satellite companies start preparations for replacement satellites five years before the end of a satellite?s mission life to give ample time for necessary preparatory activities. Sadly, none of the preparatory activities for an Agila 2 replacement has taken place.

    With the sale of Agila 2 to ABS, it is clear PLDT or MSC no longer plans to loft another satellite. Globe Telecom, the second leading telco operator, is not expected to launch its own satellite given its affiliation with Singapore?s SingTel, which already operates nine satellites. SingTel, by the way, owns 39 percent of Globe Telecom.

    The question now is which local company has the guts and patriotism to launch a new Philippine satellite.
    Hughes HN7000S + 1.2m Prodelin Offset Ku Dish