By Brian Jakins, Regional Vice President, Africa
It’s no understatement to say the infrastructure of Africa is complicated. The continent’s topology, economics and regulatory environments vary by country and region – which is no minor detail with 52 countries and thousands of different ethnic groups across the continent. As a result, serving the disparate needs of enterprises, governments and communities across Africa can be a challenge for mobile providers and network operators.
This is where the Intelsat Globalized Network – with its integrated satellite and terrestrial technology, services and capabilities – enables operators in Africa to open new markets, drive new revenue streams and ensure their customers enjoy the most reliable broadband communications.
Here are just three of the hurdles facing network operators in Africa today:
- Increasing Broadband Demands – throughout Africa, mobile data consumption is on the rise. More and more people are watching TV and videos on their mobile devices. In fact, more Africans watch videos on mobile screens than on television screens. The rise of apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp are adding to the pressure for data connectivity, putting a strain on the mobile networks.
- Increasing Costs of Infrastructure and Management – more and more network operators are shying away from infrastructure investments. In some areas – particularly in Western Africa – a tougher economic climate is spurring operators to outsource more in order to focus on brand management, adding revenue-generating activities and shareholder returns.
- Increasing Complexities – with more technologies and services coming into the region, determining the right solutions to solve communications challenges can be complicated.
Yet at the same time, there are many opportunities for network operators in the region. With terrestrial broadband coverage expanding in many African countries, high-throughput satellites (HTS), like the Intelsat Epic platform, will unlock new markets and applications for mobile providers. The launch of our second Intelsat Epic satellite, Intelsat 33e (IS-33e), slated for later this year, will bring a technological step change and commercial flexibility for our customers to address some of these challenges to meet their business needs and those of the communities they serve.
For example, remote areas of Africa don’t have the populations to justify connecting them to central terrestrial networks. However, with high-power spot beams of Intelsat EpicNG, those economies will be improved, providing internet access for previously inaccessible areas of the market. This is because the kits required to receive signals from our HTS spot beams are smaller and more portable than those necessary for connecting to wide beams, making them easier to install in remote areas. Moreover, many of these kits are solar-powered, which makes them usable in areas where power supply can be unpredictable.
With IS-33e, we can better address the domestic broadband via satellite market in Africa. Whereas today, broadband delivery is focused on a few core markets with terrestrial connections, our HTS solution will allow telcos in the different markets to offer a uniform Internet service that can serve a lot of people.
New managed services, such as our IntelsatOne Flex for Enterprise offering, help network operators stay ahead of their customers’ emerging demands. Ours is a managed service that allows regional and global providers to access and incorporate HTS into their networks, seamlessly and with great control and scalability. IntelsatOne Flex allows network operators to outsource the complex tasks of terminal installation and network integration. At the same time, they can reduce expenses by flexibly allocating bandwidth to meet surges in demand or new geographic requirements.
There is no doubt that broadband connections will expand to more African households, but to eliminate the barriers between countries, organizations and people, it takes more than just global connections – it takes a Globalized Network. With HTS and other technologies imminent, it’s easy to imagine delivering connections to mobile Wi-Fi hotspots on buses or feeding data to soda vending machines with a massive data broadcast services. In Africa, where Intelsat has acted and operated traditionally, we will remain, but we will also evolve – and make it easier for anyone to connect or work with anyone else, anywhere in the world.