Africa should adopt satellite communication technologies to speed up broadband roll-out and provide access to more people.
According to Pan Africa Internet Services Provider iWayAfrica top exec Stephen Claassen, although Africa has witnessed an explosion of mobile telephony over the past two decade and a half, penetration of internet services has remained sluggish particularly in rural areas.
While governments in the continent have pumped resources into fibre optic cables, the coverage is manly concentrated in urban centres and commercial towns. Besides, the tough terrains found in the continent have made it difficult to lay fibre cables in most parts of African nations.
“Africa will continue to see a boom in the use of satellite technology to span large distances. The longer the distance, the more appealing satellite becomes largely as a result of the cost and the fact that satellite access is independent of location,” Claassen told research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Data by the International Telecommunications Union show that only about 20 per cent of Africa’s close to a billion people have access to the internet.
Yet for majority of these people internet access is mainly through the mobile phone, which has witnessed an unprecedented boom due to the advancements in wireless network and device technologies, coupled with the propagation of sophisticated mobile applications.
The evolution from basic feature phones to smartphones has been nothing short of phenomenal, that according more people access to the internet.
According to Claassen, as consumers become increasingly attached to their mobile devices, any interruption in service usage is unacceptable in today’s connected world thus an ever-increasing expectation for more bandwidth and ubiquitous service.
“The reality is that although perceived connectivity is high due to cellular network evolution in densely populated areas, many more remote locations still have low to no connectivity and subpar service,” he says.
He adds that the opportunity to address this challenge is optimistic with carriers recognising the benefits of adopting satellite backhaul technology to reach previously cost or resource prohibitive locations.
African governments perceive satellite technologies to be expensive, thus the result why they are opting to invest in fibre cables. Lack of government investments means the private sector can take advantage considering the large chunk of population that needs access. Investing in satellite technologies in Africa can offer phenomenal returns.