August 2014

Tùpac Katari

Last December 20th the first Bolivian satellite was launched to space from the Chinese Xichang space station. The start date of the satellite was the April 1st. The utility of the satellite Tùpac Katari will be very beneficial for Bolivians living in rural areas. Its role is mainly to provide to the entire population of Bolivia telecommunications access. The cost of this technology borders on the $300 million Bolivia bought from a Chinese company. Why did Bolivia utilize Chinese services? Is $300 million not too much for a satellite for an economy the size of Bolivia’s? What precisely will be the advantages for Bolivia to have a satellite? Tùpac Katari raises many stakes at an economic, social, political, and environmental level. Survey.

Ian Depaw
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Mouscron - Belgium

Photo: Ian Depaw

Characteristics and utility
The name of the satellite is symbolic and honorific. It comes from an Aymara hero, head of a revolt against the Spanish colonial occupation in 1781. The aim of this satellite is to provide Bolivians with the opportunity to access to more autonomy. It will supply up to 30% of the Bolivia’s population -- who are living in rural areas -- with full access to telecommunications; namely, to mobile phones network, the Internet, and radio broadcasting or television. It will also be useful for the education and health services of the State. For the Bolivian army, this technology will come in handy to confront risks, disasters, and for the management of emergency situations.

According to the Agencia Boliviana Espacial (information available in its website), Tùpac Katari weighs 5,100 kg and its dimensions are: 2,360 mm × 2,100 mm × 3,600 mm. It is revolving around the Earth at 36,000 kms of altitude and regenerates its energy with sun power courtesy of its six solar panels.

Chinese Funding
The total cost of Tùpac Katari is $295.440 million. That investment was financed up to 85% with a Chinese banking credit from the Bank of China ($251.120 million). The other part ($44.320 million) was funded by TGC International; a multinational society specialized in marketing and corporative communication.

Tupac Katari statue in Titicaca lake
Photo: Ian Depaw

The conditions of the Chinese loan are specific: the Bolivian government has 15 years to pay it back to the Bank of China. The annual interest’s rate is 2.7% according to the Libor rate1 with a settlement of six months.2

The Bolivian government had the choice to deal with France, Russia, or China. It chose the last one for different reasons: the first one was the fact that China proposed an entire elaboration program. Further, China supplied an interesting exit-tax. The third reason was that China is able to propose to transfer its technology. Finally, the Asian country offered the best price to build Tùpac Katari.

Photo: Ian Depaw

On the question if $300 million is too expensive or not, the Agencia Boliviana Espacial offers the following explanation: «It is important to view that amount with an open mind. This amount represents the bill of Tigo last year, one of the three big operators in Bolivia. The telecommunications sector totals more than $1 billion per year». The main part of that money comes from Bolivians. They will decide if this is a good investment or not to cover their need for telecommunications.

Dealing with enterprises
In order to allow Bolivians to take advantage of a full access to telecommunications, the price of the use of the services will be reduced. President Evo Morales announced on January 22nd of 2014 during the Plurinational Legislative Meeting about the reduction of the costs of mobile phonecalls from April. Customers of operator Entel will pay 1.20 bolivianos for one minute instead of 1.50 bolivianos. As to monthly internet prices, they would be reduced to 195 bolivianos for a Mega instead of 230 bolivianos.

Photo: Ian Depaw

Others contracts have also been set up with Bolivia TV with the aim to use services of the satellite. Those contracts should generate $23 million each year for the State. Entel will deal with the State during five years and Bolivia TV for one year. Both contracts are renewable.

Since the first of April, Tùpac Katari is using 10% of the totality of its capacity. Given that Entel is the main user of the satellite’s services and therefore allows its customers to make the most of a notable discount on the telecommunications prices, other operators shouldn’t take too much time to utilize the satellite as well and, likewise, to allow the State to increase its cash inflows. Furthermore, we count 12 other national and foreign companies who should be interested for the services of Tùpac Katari. However, the first priority are the national customers.

For the future, president Morales has already expressed his wish to build a new Bolivian satellite. The utility of that new satellite is intended for mine and oil exploration in Bolivia. The establishment of a high-tech industry in the country will set up a new source of employment targeted to qualified individuals. It will contribute to the global technology development of the country in terms of software, telecommunications, telemedicine, and teleeducation.

1 Reference’s rates on the monetary market for differentes currencies.
2 0,32800 %. More information about libor rate on :

Calendario AGOSTO 2014

- El hijo del otro
4 de Agosto - 19h

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11 de Agosto - 19h

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18 de Agosto - 19h

- La casa de la radio
25 de Agosto - 19h

Del artista Hector Canonge Inauguración de la exposición:
21 de Agosto - 19:00

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