Vietnam to launch first satellite next month

By Xinhua

Hanoi : Vietnam is scheduled to launch its first satellite on April 12, helping the country offer better domestic and international communication services at lower cost.

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This launch will make Vietnam the sixth Southeast Asian nation to secure space sovereignty and interests, Nguyen Ba Thuoc, vice president of the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT),the satellite project’s investor, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The medium-sized communication satellite named Vinasat-1 weighing 2.6 tons produced by U.S. firm Lockheed Martin will be launched to its geostationary orbit position of 132 degrees East using rocket Ariane-5 by French company Ariane Space in Kourou sitein French Guiana.

With 20 transponders, service coverage in South East Asia, part of China, India, Korea, Japan, Australia and Hawaii, and life-span of between 15 and over 20 years, Vinasat-1 has transmission capacity equivalent to 10,000 voice, Internet and data channels or120 TV channels, helping Vietnam to provide telecommunications, radio, Internet and TV services to all corners of the country regardless of topography and climate, Nguyen said.

Besides serving commercial purposes slated for starting in June, the satellite will serve public utilities such as providing weather information and navigation guidelines to fishing ships and oil rigs, as well as remote healthcare and education services to islands and remote areas.

Total investment for the production and launch of Vinasat-1 and the construction of related facilities like two ground stations in northern Ha Tay province and southern Binh Duong province stands at nearly 300 million U.S. dollars, he said, adding that the VNPT will recoup the investment after nine or 10 years.

According to the official, so far, 16 Vietnamese organizations and companies have registered to use Vinasat-1-based communication services at costs much lower than those provided by foreign satellites. Now, Vietnam has to spend some 15 million dollars annually renting satellites of such foreign countries as Russia, Australia and Thailand.

There are 280 communication satellites in the world, including 80 in Asia, Bui Quoc Viet, director of the VNPT’s Center of Posts and Telecommunications said at the press conference, noting that five Southeast Asian countries — Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines — currently have satellites.

Now, Vietnam has over 40 million phone subscribers, including more than 30 mobile phone ones, reaching a phone density of over 50 per 100 residents, Viet said, adding that more than 80 percent of the country’s population have access to TV services, and 25 percent of the population are Internet users.