Voice and broadband costs across Africa could be just about halved, following a major deal that Evosat, the South African-based distributor of Inmarsat's Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service, has secured. Nashua Mobile will be the first cellphone provider to offer mobile satellite communications based on the new cost structure.
The new offering from Nashua Mobile will make it possible to cost-effectively access even the remotest parts of Africa.
Harry Tayler, MD of Evosat, says the Nashua Mobile-enabled services will immediately fill the gap in the cell phone and 3G coverage throughout Africa.
He says the deal will act as an important catalyst for economic activity on the continent, increasingly earmarked not only by South African retailers, manufacturers, bankers and mining companies for its still largely untapped growth potential, but also by off-shore investors and NGOs seeking to provide health, educational and infrastructural support in the region.
“Until now, Africa’s satellite connectivity has been impeded by prohibitively high costs, presenting a major difficulty for many companies and aid organisations in doing business," says Tayler.
Mark Taylor, MD of Nashua Mobile, adds: "The deal between Nashua Mobile and Evosat, which we believe is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, makes it possible to run a virtual office anywhere on the continent, irrespective of on-the-ground infrastructure.
A single terminal, which can be purchased from Nashua Mobile, will allow users to access data applications and make a voice call at the same time. They will have cellphone-quality connectivity, access to the Internet, their E-mail and even video conferencing."
He adds that multi-user support offered will allow teams to share a single unit. Subscribers can, however, opt for just a satellite phone, if that is all they require.
Inmarsat’s satellites, positioned over the Indian and Atlantic Ocean regions, cover 85% of the world’s land mass and 98% of its population. A third satellite, due to be launched early next year, will extend coverage to the Pacific Ocean region, delivering mobile broadband throughout the entire world, except for the extreme polar regions.
“Any Nashua Mobile subscriber to the service will be able to make satellite contact anywhere in the world at the preferential rates secured by Evosat,” Tayler says.
No specialist technical expertise is required to set up and connect to the network, he adds. The user interface is also standard and equipment is light, robust and integrates seamlessly with existing networks.
“There are never any compatibility issues with local telecoms, because you connect directly to the satellite. Cell phone SIM cards are also compatible with the satellite phones making it possible to use the phone as a GSM phone by simply swapping the SIM card.”
Nashua Mobile is offering the satellite service via its nationwide network of 140 outlets with staff trained to provide sales support.
Evosat, launched in 2005, was established by a group of UK and South African investors. It has been actively involved in providing equipment and technical support this year to explorer Kingsley Holgate, who is now in Sierra Leone.