SATELLITE MISHAP THROWS PACIFIC FOR LOOP

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By Marconi Calindas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 19) – The KRNM radio station on Saipan remains without live programs since Saturday morning after the main Intelsat satellite covering the Pacific area drifted off course over the weekend. Many islands in the Pacific, including Guam, Tokelau, Tonga, Cook Islands, Western Samoa, American Samoa, Chatham Islands, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Vanuatu, Tokelau, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga were cut off from their telephones and Internet due to the glitch.

While service has been restored in some areas, others continue to struggle.

The $73-million Bermuda-registered Intelsat IS-804 satellite that transmits U.S.-based programs to KRNM moved out of alignment since Saturday, according to KRNM station manager Carl Pogue.

"The bulk of what we air comes out from the satellite," said Pogue.

As of press time, he said that their provider, Intelsat, has not discussed with them the actual problem on their end.

"The satellite either failed or spun out of orbit so this is out of our hands," he said.

News reports said the exact cause of the blackout had yet to be made public, but by 3pm on Saturday, Intelsat had already made it known to its customers that the satellite has "stopped talking."

Intelsat provides satellite uplinks in space, which also has clients from Russia to New Zealand, linking TV stations, radio stations, telephone companies and others. Also affected are the booking services of all international airlines in Tonga, Air New Zealand, Polynesian Airlines and Air Pacific.

With the signal from the satellite lost, Pogue said that the station has to wait until Intelsat transfers all of their clients to a different satellite. He said KRNM is working double time to readjust its satellite dish and it is receiving equipment to re-route the programming to a different satellite.

News reports from other areas in the Pacific said that communications have been restored to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, Western Samoa and the Solomon Islands through alternative satellite options. Most of the other islands whose telecommunications depend on the satellite have also restored local phone and data services but without international calls and data access.

Local listeners need not worry, though, as KRNM is still on the air, although it would be re-running some programs to fill in the gap.

"It's just that we have lost our satellite feed. KRNM will have to resort to alternate programming. I don't have anything new coming down so I have to fill it with alternative shows with programs last week," said Pogue, "The live news, I had to replace with talk shows that we had."

He expressed hope that KRNM will regain normal programming today but he said they could not guarantee this. This will depend on whether they could pick up the new satellite, or Intelsat would have to make adjustments on their end. He said the radio station's engineer is currently in the United States. Pogue hopes, though, that only minor adjustments are needed from his end to bring the live feed back on air.

"We're both working on coordinating with Intelsat for the new frequency satellite so that we can go back online," Pogue said.

Pogue said that 90 percent of what KRNM airs comes from the National Public Radio and Public Radio International, providing the station with most of its shows. The remaining 10 percent comprise locally produced shows by volunteer students per week.

He said KRNM has been announcing this trouble on air and have made efforts to cover dead spots.

KRNM works in conjunction with KPRG on Guam, since both radio stations share the same satellite feed. KPRG has been affected, too.

KRNM has two transmitters on Saipan-one 1,000 watts transmitter at the NMC compound with 88.1 frequency and one 100 watts transmitter on Mt. Tapochao with 89.1 frequency. The transmitter from NMC shoots the program onto Mt. Tapochao transmitter, which serves as a receiver or "translator" of the programs coming from home base.

NPR is based in Washington D.C., while the PRI office is in Minnesota.

"I would like to say to KRNM's avid listeners to be patient until they can lock on the new satellite. We hope to fix the problem this week," he said.

January 19, 2005

Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com

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