The country of Azerbaijan is adopting a very progressive space strategy, and is working with Measat Satellite Systems to develop a space capability. Azercosmos is the national satellite operator and the company’s chairman and CEO, Rashad Nabiyev, talks about how satellites could make a difference in Azerbaijan.
VIA SATELLITE: How important is it for Azerbaijan to have space capability?
Nabiyev: The government of Azerbaijan attaches great importance to this field. In 2011, the size of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) market in Azerbaijan amounted to more than $1.7 billion. The compound annual growth rate has been estimated to be 25 percent for the last five years and ICT has gained considerable impact in socio-economic life in recent years, which has placed it in the forefront of government policy and President Ilham Aliyev has declared it the second priority sector of the national economy. This is clearly indicative of the real prospect of the ICT-related growth and the urgent need to respond to the increasing demand for satellite-based information and communication services with decreased and affordable costs.
By integrating the advantages of space capabilities to the national development program, our government aims to bring the country into new heights of economic power, intellectual capacity and information security. Azerbaijan actively participates in a wide array of regional projects and international cooperation programs. The government of Azerbaijan is dedicated to carrying out programs and projects to become a regional leader in information transmission. Economic benefits and information security brought about by utilization of satellite technologies will further enhance Azerbaijan’s contribution to regional development and boost its international partnerships across various spectrums.
VIA SATELLITE: What can satellite technology bring to Azerbaijan? What are the main goals of the Azerspace project?
Nabiyev: With a population of more than 9 million and a terrain of mountains and plateaus, Azerbaijan has its own specific challenges in bringing connectivity to the people, especially to the population residing in remote and hard-to-reach mountainous areas. Satellite networks can be rolled out quickly and inexpensively to hundreds or thousands of locations, connecting cities or remote locations across a large landmass, where copper or fiber is cost prohibitive. Since satellite networks can be set up quickly, companies can quickly deliver new services to the market. Externally, satellite will introduce an enlarged gateway for the local companies into the world satellite services market and enable them to expand and develop new services and platforms to meet public demand.
Once in orbit, the satellite will provide broadcast and broadband services. For Azerbaijan, it is hoped that the creation of an independent satellite will help the country to assert itself more strongly and to develop economically. It will also eliminate the dependence of the country on other satellite networks and will provide the population of the country with high-quality TV and radio broadcasting. In addition, the government will be able to establish much needed Internet services. Satellite connectivity will change the way in which the country can deal with emergencies, obtain information and define ways of processing protection, distribution and use of space information both for civil and security purposes.
VIA SATELLITE: How are you looking to develop the space industry in Azerbaijan?
Nabiyev: Within the framework of the activities undertaken in order to implement the State Program on Creation of Space Industry, specific activities are currently under way to launch the Azerspace-1 satellite as envisaged, towards the end of 2012. Azercosmos plans to launch a second satellite, Azerspace-2, in 2015, which will expand Azerbaijan’s satellite capacity further.
At the same time, Azerbaijan looks forward to launching its other telecommunication satellites and kick off an independent remote sensing program. Our remote sensing program alone will have three operational satellites. I believe a total of at least six satellites within less than a decade is very good proof of the significance given to the advancement of space industry at the highest possible level. In addition to these, we also plan to launch Low-Earth-orbiting satellites, as well as several optical and radar satellites during the upcoming decade.
VIA SATELLITE: What role do you see satellite playing in your overall communications infrastructure?
Nabiyev: Satellite is already playing a part in the delivery of communications in Azerbaijan, for international and long distance communications and also for radio and TV broadcasting in the region. In many cases, satellite presents the only alternative to existing fiber-optic cable networks and Azerbaijan is using satellite for transmission of large volumes of information both within the country and on a transmit basis to other countries.
The country’s radio, TV and telecommunication companies are currently leasing capacity from various satellite operators. The geographic nature of the region has prompted great interest in the potential of satellite communications systems. Since almost 60 percent of the country is covered by mountains, it is difficult or impossible to extend fiber-optic to the population resident in these mountainous areas. Therefore, satellite-based communications technologies can provide an effective communications solution both for these inaccessible territories and meet the rising demand for satellite services in the future.
VIA SATELLITE: What will you be using the capacity on the satellite for? How much capacity is needed?
Nabiyev: The satellite capacity is supposed to be used for all the traditional telecommunication satellite purposes, such as broadcasting and telecommunication satellite services (BSS: TV- Radio, FSS-Internet, Telephony, VSAT, etc.). Satellite networks and communications systems will make it possible to deliver VSAT related services and solutions such as telemedicine, distance learning and two-way tracking as well as remote connectivity such as provision of satellite GSM backhaul services for corporate and government customers to provide telecommunication services in remote areas.
It will also help provide disaster recovery services such as a provision for corporate and government customers’ business activities that rely on IT technologies and Satellite News Gathering (SNG) so that broadcasting operators can connect remote news gathering TV crews directly back to their TV studios without the need for terrestrial networks.
Azerbaijan is going to use only a quarter of the Azerspace-1 capacity, while the rest will be available for leasing. Capacity leasing will provide a guaranteed capacity on a 24/7 basis for extended periods of time on C- and Ku-band transponders. There will also be opportunities of offering flexible capacity leasing for specific customer requirements including new service introduction, disaster recovery or service back-up on C- and Ku-band transponders and occasional usage to provide broadcasters with satellite capacity for limited duration transmission at a short-notice.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you view the potential for satellite broadband in Azerbaijan?
Nabiyev: Azerbaijan has a national broadband plan to increase connectivity throughout the country. Presently, the “Strategy on Development of Broadband Internet Services” is being implemented. The activities carried out at present to further develop the wireless broadband networks allow us to state that the broadband network services will develop even faster in the Internet services market.
We believe that as satellite communication continues its expansion, Ka-band technology can fulfill an important role in providing telecommunication infrastructure for rural and remote areas. For this reason, we are seriously considering having Ka-band in our second satellite.