Indonesia grounds second broadband satellite to free up digital inclusion funds

By Laura Dobberstein,
Published by The Register, 23 October 2023

Boeing and SpaceX lose out. Ministry is betting 70 million people without internet access won’t

Indonesia has decided not to launch a hot backup satellite (HBS) to support its single broadband-beaming bird, and plans to spend the money on Earth-based digital inclusion efforts instead.

“The BAKTI Kominfo Task Force has reviewed the proposal and approved the early termination of the HBS contract after considering the aspects of urgency, budget, contract progress, and operational risks of the successfully launched SATRIA 1,” explained the chair of Indonesia’s Telecommunication and Information Accessibility Agency (BAKTI), Sarwoto Atmosutarno.

The HBS was designed to provide backup support for the SATRIA-1 in case the main satellite were to experience an outage or fail to meet capacity. SATRIA-1, launched in June of this year, provides wireless broadband services to the many remote and underserved regions across Indonesia’s 18,000 islands.

At the time of the SATRIA-1 launch, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Informatics (Kominfo), hailed the satellite for its ability to bring internet to schools, healthcare centres, hospitals, police and the country’s armed forces.

The spacecraft is slated to be fully operational by early 2024.

According to Kominfo, the decision to terminate the HBS contract became necessary due to “limited financial resources in completing the national digital inclusion target.”

“We must focus on SATRIA-1, which will consume a lot of energy and cannot fail in its implementation. We will be very busy with how to utilize it optimally, both for space segment and ground segment capacity. Don’t let us lose focus,” declared Atmosutarno.

SATRIA-1 was built by Thales and launched by SpaceX.

HBS was a $326 million project that began in 2021. Boeing was chosen as the satellite’s manufacturer while SpaceX won launch duties and Hughes Network System provided the broadband bits.

Last week, communication and informatics mister Budi Arie Setiadi revealed that Indonesia, which claims a population of over 278 million, has 212 million internet users – leaving around 24 percent of the population offline.

“The Indonesian government is fully committed to optimizing the growth of the digital ecosystem by taking various initiatives, including improving internet connection and expanding its coverage, which has become our priority,” the minister reportedly proclaimed.

See: Original Article