The government has formed a committee to study the feasibility of launching Nepal's first satellite to an orbital slot provided by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — originally founded as the
International Telegraph Union — in 1984.
"The government has formed a five-member committee to study it," according to the Ministry of Information and Communications.
According to ITU, Nepal has to use the orbital slot by 2015. If it fails to use the orbital slot, it will be difficult to claim again. "If Nepal is unable to use the entire satellite for its internal purpose, it can be leased out to neighbouring countries for commercial purposes," according to the ministry.
The satellite will facilitate TV broadcast and weather forecast as TV channels and weather forecasting agencies have been paying about $25 million annually for accessing international satellite services.
Nepal has, however, no experience of setting up a satellite. The committee will have to study everything from scratch, like technicalities involved, feasibility at the commercial level, estimated costs and profitability of the investments.
After the study report is finalised, other supplementary studies need to be conducted before calling a tender to set up the satellite.
Since it costs a huge amount of money for setting up a satellite, it could be a good option to go for public-private partnership (PPP) model, including international expertise. The other option at hand is to go ahead through a joint-venture among national and international firms and the government.
China and India already have their own satellites, whereas Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are working on it.
The five-member committee led by joint secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications Narayan Sanjel includes representatives from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Nepal Telecommunications Authority and Nepal Television.
China’s Great Wall Industry Corporation (GWIC), which has helped launch satellites for a number of developing countries, from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Bolivia and Nigeria, is expected to make a pitch for cooperating with Nepal on the project, having voiced its interest in principle in the past to Nepali diplomats.GWIC is also in talks with Bangladesh over its satellite programme.