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Satellite can enhance multi-tier communication in Africa

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Consumers have several options available to them when it comes to acquiring connectivity to the Internet and the ability to send and receive material over communication channels.

Continuous development of product and increasing levels of innovation in general mean that digital interaction can take place over ADSL, as a form of DSL, 3G or even satellite.
Specialists in telecommunications solution development and implementation advise that it is best to step back, avoid hype and hearsay as much as possible and seriously consider the merits of technologies available before making a decision.
As an example, Dawie de Wet, CEO at Q-KON, a South Africa-based engineering group focused on providing turn-key solutions to the emerging African telecommunications market, raises the issue of ADSL and satellite as available communication lines to consumers.
“In the past, satellite has generally been considered too expensive for the consumer. Cost constraints pushed the technology out of reach of most people.
"The irony is that satellite is essentially a broadcast network that has been adapted for data and Internet broadcasting. It is an ubiquitous service that can be controlled end-to-end, and is suited for Internet communication,” says De Wet.
“Today it is finding application and relevance within rural areas. Up until very recently, users in these areas may have had very little if any chance to connect to the Internet and enjoy access to digital communication.”
ADSL, on the other hand, is based on existing copper cable lines, and as a technology architecture, was designed as a voice network adapted for data.
DSL is mostly not fibre, but there is connectivity to a fibre backbone – so fibre does come into play at some point, explains De Wet.
“ADSL is point-to-point and is a solution that is comprised of various stages or components. It is also symmetrical by nature, which means that what you see is what you can transmit – the speeds of either 512Kb or 328Kb are the same,” he continues.
Whilst ADSL is effective in terms of download speeds and is designed to optimise voice and calling transmission, the technology is slow to roll out and is prone to issues such as cable theft and line faults.
Despite these setbacks, the technology does suit specific environments and is an effective channel for high-speed Internet access.
De Wet believes that consumers in general are easily persuaded to follow what is "aggressively pushed" to them in the marketplace.
“But this is not necessarily the best option available. We can highlight the fact that satellite transmission is not constrained and the quality of transmission has very little to do with the actual satellite in place.
"In fact, it has more to do with the receiver or ‘dish’ – the basic premise is that the larger the dish, the better the signal. The satellite itself is technology that is built to last years and does not change,” says De Wet.
Q-KON is a technology supplier that generates turn-key satellite and wireless communication solutions and managed network services via an established Channel. It does not sell to the end-user market directly.
However, as De Wet explains, the company is very aware of the consumer environment and its requirements, particularly from a business or commercial point of view. Africa is fast becoming more connected and represents a vastly untapped resource in terms of the investment in and integration of satellite infrastructure to offer telecommunications and broadband Internet connectivity.
For example, De Wet refers to the introduction of offerings such as SkyeVine and the availability of direct-to-home Internet via satellite.
“Satellite communications infrastructure is becoming more accessible to consumers and mainstream application in business. It is becoming a more cost effective alternative.
"Service providers are more equipped to manage the environment and add more value. In terms of risk, adverse weather conditions can be problematic, but do not represent a significant, unmanageable problem.”
Looking ahead, Q-KON management believe that as growth in technology and levels of accessibility improves, costs will be driven further down.
This will significantly enhance the profile of satellite infrastructure use in the market, and add value to the lives of consumers.