Kourou, French Guiana. Bank Rakyat Indonesia or BRI, the country’s second largest lender by assets, launched BRISat — a commercial telecommunication satellite — to connect 10,650 BRI branches across the archipelago digitally over the next few years.
“We will develop a number of financial applications and make the most out of our new satellite to make BRI more efficient,” said Asmawi Syam, the president director of BRI — the most profitable lender in Indonesia which specializes in providing loans for small and medium enterprises.
The state-lender plans to transform itself into the biggest digital banking network in Indonesia by 2019.
BRISat's launch had been delayed three times, the last time on Friday due to bad weather. Two previous delays were due to a mechanical fault with the launch rockets. The satellite was finally launched on Sunday morning (19/06), 04:39 a.m. Jakarta time.
The $250 million satellite was launched by the world’s leading satellite launch company Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center — Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite will be stationed at a geostationary orbit above Papua.
BRI expects to start taking control of the satellite in August, after the satellite maker makes some fine tuning to its functions.
Indonesia — an archipelago comprising more than 17,500 islands — is a natural market for satellite telecommunication, with connectivity remaining a big challenge for people living in remote areas.
BRISat is the first satellite owned and operated by a bank. Traditionally, lenders all over the world rent satellite services from telco companies to support their operations.
Asmawi said BRI is now more than ready to compete in digital banking against counterparts in the region, ahead of the semi-integrated financial market for Asean member countries — scheduled to be open by 2020.
“Congratulations to BRI for its success in launching BRISat. I'm sure this will be great help to the BRI system,” said Vice President Jusuf Kalla in a teleconference with BRI’s president director Asmawi Syam at BRI’s headquarters in Jakarta on Sunday.
Muliaman D. Hadad, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, or OJK, said the satellite should benefit should benefit the whole of Indonesia's banking sector.
BRI has around 50 million customers all over Indonesia and operates more than 9,800 conventional outlets, which include head offices, branch and sub-branch offices and SME loan outlets. It also offers more than 100,000 e-Channel outlets.
The scale of the lender’s operations means it needs network support from 23 satellite transponders. In the past, the bank's satellite-based communication network has been relying on services from 9 satellite service providers in Indonesia.
BRI had been spending about Rp 500 billion per year to rent satellites. Buying the BRISat outright is equivalent to the cost of renting satellites for 7 years. The satellite maker promises BRI it can use BRISat for at least 17 years.
BRI’s shares rose 0.73 percent — higher than the 0.59 percent index increase — to close at 10,325 on Monday.