Satellites and their importance for essential services in Africa

The debate on satellite broadband connectivity in Africa is turning. Until now satellites have been deemed an expensive and impractical alternative to fibre optic cable and terrestrial broadband delivery solutions in Africa. The activation of the Avanti HYLAS 2 satellite which promises 100Gb/s connectivity last week is a significant step in changing this perception, but it is not the only technological advancement that is driving the role of satellite technology in closing the digital divide in Africa.

Technological innovations are driving down the costs and enhancing the capabilities of satellites to deliver connectivity. The reliability, speed and ease of use of satellites to deliver reliable, high-bandwidth broadband is particularly advantageous for essential services such as military, emergency services and disaster recovery units where an immediate response can be a matter of life or death.

One of the key advantages satellite broadband connectivity has over fibre optic cables is its immediacy and reliability. There is little doubt of the importance of underwater fibre optic cable initiatives in delivering broadband services to the region, but the cables are subject to regulation, not to mention corruption and reliability issues. In February this year four underwater cables were severed, one by a ship’s anchor and three under rumours of sabotage and corruption. The resulting outage took three weeks to rectify affecting connectivity in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The time taken to rectify outages such as this hugely impacts the development of broadband services in the region.

Add to this the fact that there are still countries and remote regions in the centre of the continent that have no accessibility to a cable and that it can take up to three years to establish a cross border fibre connection, and it becomes clear that despite the incredible progress undersea cables have made, there are evident limitations.

There is now satellite hardware that is extremely mobile, versatile and easy to use. Vislink has recently launched the world’s smallest and lightest satellite data terminal. Weighing in at only 12.5Kgs, the Mantis MSAT can be carried in a one-man back pack and deployed and operational within five minutes, delivering voice, video and broadband data communications. It is the product’s ability to activate data connectivity anywhere, reliably and at short notice, coupled with its access to the Avanti satellite that makes this technology an attractive and practical solution for portable applications such as those needed by essential services.

The Mantis MSAT is approved by Avanti for use on its satellites and operates on KA-band, but can switch to KU or X bands if required in the field. Water-proof and dust-proof, the MSAT is designed for outdoor use in severe environments and can operate in temperatures of up to 55°C.

If you would like to speak to Ali Zarkesh, Business Development Director of Satcom Solutions at Vislink, to discuss how satellites can contribute to closing the digital divide in Africa, particularly for essential services, please do let me know. Ali can discuss:

  • The significant technological developments that make satellite broadband a viable delivery alternative to cable
  • The likely impact of Avanti HYLAS 2 for the African continent and its quest to close the digital divide
  • The key features of the Mantis MSAT, how this will work with the Avanti HYLAS 2 to provide communications technology for essential, remote and portable services in Africa

Source: Vislink – Press Release – 15 November 2012