Satellite broadband is a hot and rapidly expanding market in Africa. Much of the growth has been concentrated in large population centers in West Africa, though recently countries in East Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are also growing at a healthy clip. In fact, according to the 2007 COMSYS VSAT report, the compound annual growth of the satellite broadband industry in the Africa region was 27 percent during the three-year period from 2004 through 2006, as measured by the number of remote sites.1
In South Africa, where satellite broadband penetration is already strong, demand for digital content is now further fueling the growth of satellite services. This market sector is expected to explode over the next few years with services such as video-on-demand, Internet TV, and bundled voice, data, and video services.
Hughes has been supplying its broadband satellite systems in the region for over a decade to a growing family of local telecom providers who deliver broadband services directly to business and residential customers. To date, Hughes has shipped its HN and HX broadband satellite systems, including more than 44,000 terminals, to over 70 service providers in Africa whose expanding customer base includes large, medium, and small enterprises, government agencies, and consumers.
The outlook for satellite broadband in Africa is strong. Gaps left by spotty terrestrial infrastructure, as well as the ongoing introduction of new applications, continue to drive growth in the region. An important application that shows promise for substantial growth is e-governance, including programs such as rural Internet access and broadband connectivity to schools, medical facilities, and other public institutions. Also driving the need for satellite solutions is the continued expansion of cellular services in rural areas where satellite is the most cost-effective backhaul solution. But the real “killer app” remains broadband Internet access, which satellite technology is uniquely positioned to deliver virtually anywhere across the continent with both high performance and high quality.
Although the region is currently challenged by the lack of space segment availability, which is hampering the expansion plans of some operators, a number of satellite service providers expect to launch new satellites over the next year to meet the increasing demand in the continent.
Another concept that holds potential in Africa is the “open skies” connectivity model that is being used successfully in Europe and North America. Open skies is an arrangement in which a satellite network licensed by a central regulator operates across national borders. Although current regulations in Africa do not permit this licensing model, such an arrangement could eventually enable companies to transmit data from country to country without the need for country-specific licenses.
Hughes encourages these market expansion initiatives and is proud to be a part of Africa’s growing satellite technology landscape—opening new possibilities and making communications easier, faster, and more accessible for businesses, governments, and consumers across the continent.
1 The 2007 Comsys VSAT Report.