Poor Internet access is still holding back businesses in rural areas, says Vox Telecom’s Douglas Reed – but affordable broadband satellite services could change the picture.
“There is little ADSL or 3G access in rural areas,” says Reed. “Farms and lodges for example have absolutely no communications or are battling along using dialup or EDGE services which are next to useless, and their businesses are suffering as a result. I’ve seen research suggesting that safari lodges could increase their occupancies by 50% if they could offer their foreign guests quality Internet access.”
Satellite has never been an option for these businesses because of the high costs involved, says Reed.
“But the new Ka-band satellites have changed the whole landscape. It’s the first technology we’ve seen that offers a service that’s both affordable and reliable enough.”
Reed cautions, however, that Ka-band satellite service is not intended to compete with uncapped ADSL.
“It fills the need for remote-areas access and is a great backup in urban areas, but the capacity is not unlimited. We have room for about 70 000 connections and it is a shared solution which means fair access policies will limit the solution.
“The satellite is sitting in a geostationary orbit at just under 36 000 km up, which means it takes about half of a second for a signal to make the trip from one ground-based transmitter to the satellite and back down to the ground station in Luxembourg. The high latency will not be a problem for e-mail and Web surfing, but the slight delay will be noticeable with voice calls and some VPN applications.”
Nevertheless, says Reed, demand for the services has been a lot higher than expected.
“We hadn’t realised the extent of the demand for a solution that was independent of the Telkom and GSM networks.”
Vox has already begun testing the satellite service and expects to launch to the public in early August.