New undersea fibre networks are starting to reach more African countries than ever before – but the vast inland bulk of the continent is still a growth market for satellite broadband connectivity.

This is one of the key messages from Vinay Patel, senior sales director: sub-Saharan Africa at Hughes Satellite, who points out that Hughes has already shipped upwards of 78 000 VSATs (very small aperture terminals) to customers in Africa during the 11 years it has operated here.

“We have been hearing about how fibre has landed – but it is on the coasts so there is limited inland penetration,” he says. “These fibre networks offer lots of capacity, but they still have to get to the customer.

“We are not afraid of the new fibre networks’ there is still a ot of space for satellite connectivity and we think the two will complement each other.”

Not only can satellite technology provide connectivity to areas where fibre cannot reach, but Patel points out that many organisations opt for a two-network strategy to ensure uptime.

Hughes is seeing growth in satellite broadband connectivity in a number of markets: enterprises looking to cloud and high-availability computing; banking; and cellular backhaul.

With Africa currently experiencing rapid growth, Hughes has committed additional resources to the region, with a footprint in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

Africa is seen as one of the big growth markets of the future, especially when it comes to connectivity. The population of more than 1-billion currently boasts fewer than 139-million Internet users in a continent where fewer than 2% of the population has access to fixed line communication.

Mobile connectivity, however, is blossoming and has grown about 30% per year for the last 10 years, with an expected total of 735-million users expected by the end of this year.