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SATCOM Along the Belt and Road? Sri Lanka’s SupremeSAT Receives Investment From China’s Tatwah Smartech Co. Ltd.

SupremeSAT’s Pallekele-Kandy Teleport in Sri Lanka. Photograph courtesy of SupremeSAT.

Xiaoru Cai, the Chairman of China’s Tatwah Smartech Co. Ltd., took part in a ceremony on January 15, 2018, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, announcing a U.S.$30 million investment in SupremeSAT, the only Sri Lankan satellite communications company.

The investment is intended to help SupremeSAT expand its geographical reach with its satellite communication services.

SupremeSAT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Supreme Global Holdings which is a Sri Lanka-based private company with operations across a range of sectors in Sri Lanka and across the world.

SupremeSAT operates a teleport at Pallekele-Kandy in Sri Lanka that provides secure satellite up- and downlink services for Sri Lanka. SupremeSAT also operates the SupremeSAT-1 communications satellite located at 87.5° East in geostationary orbit. Built by Thales Alenia Space, SupremeSAT-1 was launched by China Great Wall Industry Corporation from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in November 2012, and was declared operational in early 2013.

SupremeSAT-1 has a steerable spot beam that consists of four high-power high-bandwidth Ku-band transponders, and can provide coverage for Africa, Asia, and Australia.

SupremeSAT-2 is due to be launched by mid-2018, also by China Great Wall Industry Corporation. SupremeSAT-2 is being built by China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) using a DFH-4 satellite bus.

In partnership with Intelsat, SupremeSAT also operate SupremeSAT-3 which broadcasts Sri Lankan channel Dialog TV.

“Tatwah is evolving as a globally strong player in the satellite communications industry. I am very pleased to see the remarkable growth SupremeSAT has achieved within a very short span of time, competing against many strong global brands. I am confident that this partnership will bring more value of Tatwah’s resources and redefine the capabilities of SupremeSAT to further grow in all areas of its operations,” said Xiaoru Cai in a Tatwah press release.

R.M. Manivannan, Chairman of Supreme Global Holdings, said, “As a private company hailing from a small island nation, SupremeSAT has proven to the world that the company has become a formidable player in the global space industry. Having established the long-term strategies and infrastructure to expand the company’s business, we expect to accelerate our growth by way of selected acquisitions worldwide.”

“Five years ago, we vowed to take Sri Lanka to the next level of technology and we have walked the talk. Our concentration was on making Sri Lanka a formidable player in the global space industry and today we are taking another giant step towards that,” he added.

The investment by Tatwah Smartech Co. Ltd. follows a pattern of Chinese investments – some unsuccessful – in satellite communications companies located in countries along the Belt and Road Inititaive (BRI).

Sri Lanka is considered to be an integral partner in China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), where China has financed a large port and airport, among other investments.

The BRI is a U.S.$1.3 trillion infrastructure development initiative that encompasses roads, railways, fiber-optic cabling, and pipelines across the Eurasian land mass, known as the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), and ports, canals, and submarine cabling from China to Europe via the South China Sea, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea via the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Added to these programmes are an Air Silk Road that involves the development of new air routes and air travel hubs, and a Digital or Cyber Silk Road that will provide digital connectivity throughout Eurasia and beyond.

Critical to the BRI, and its myriad offshoots, is the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor, also know as the Space Silk Road, recently promulgated in the 2016 Chinese Space White Paper.

This Space Silk Road seeks to provide not only connectivity across the BRI region through satellite communications – to include broadcasting and broadband Internet – but also positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services through China’s Beidou satellite navigation system, and Earth observation, environmental monitoring, and even space science and space exploration cooperation among states participating in the BRI and the Space Silk Road.

SupremeSAT’s Pallekele-Kandy Teleport also doubles as the South Asia Space Academy, and includes clean rooms for the construction of small satellites, a satellite control centre, as well as classrooms for developing Sri Lankan satellite engineers and other space specialists.

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