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New Dawn Partner Committed to African Satcom

Intelsat's New Dawn satellite. Credit: Intelsat artist's concept

PARIS — The South African investment group that recently cashed out of the New Dawn joint venture with satellite fleet operator Intelsat said it remains committed to providing commercial satellite communications in Africa despite the collapse of the venture.

Johannesburg-based Convergence Partners said it was the failure of the New Dawn satellite’s C-band antenna to deploy in orbit, and not African market conditions, that caused a Convergence Partners-led group to sell its remaining stake in New Dawn to Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat.

Intelsat is now sole owner of the New Dawn satellite, located at 32.8 degrees east longitude. The satellite, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., was launched in April 2011 and failed to deploy its C-band antenna, scuttling much of its business case in Africa.

Intelsat subsequently filed and received an insurance claim for $118 million for the anomaly, and said it would lose part of up to $310 million in C-band orders it had booked for the spacecraft.

New Dawn continues to operate its Ku-band broadcasts, but this is not enough to sustain the joint venture, Convergence Partners Chairman Andile Ngcaba said in a Nov. 7 statement.

“The New Dawn partnership was created to enable the parties to achieve specific objectives,” Ngcaba said. “The technical anomaly, which resulted in the nondeployment of one of the satellite’s reflectors, precluded us from fully realizing our broader objectives. The venture was a landmark deal for Africa and fundamentally changed the way Africans participate in this critical sector and, as such, remains something we are very proud of.

“Convergence Partners maintains its long-term commitment to the African space communications sector and is creating further ventures in this regard, in order to assist in ensuring strong representation of Africans in all aspects of the industry. The development of these opportunities meets the twin objectives of Convergence Partners, being the generation of attractive financial returns as well as acceleration of the socio-economic development of the continent.”

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