Vox Telecom has launched the Vox Tickybox as a means of delivering low-cost satellite Internet access to townships and rural areas.

“Everybody talks about it but nobody is doing it,” says Vox Tickybox head Paul Muller. “We’ve developed a business model that enables us to deliver high-quality satellite bandwidth to remote areas at a cost that’s actually affordable enabling internet access as well as VoIP telephony and faxing.”

As part of the initiative, Vox Tickybox has partnered with engineering and IT specialists to develop a containerised communications centre that can be set up anywhere within days.

“Internet connectivity can be a catalyst for a lot of additional investment, job opportunities and education,” says Muller. “Because the facility is modular and prefabricated you can easily add new units: A print shop, a training room, a call centre, a telemedicine clinic, a school computer lab.”

One of the first such sites has been set up in Esikhaweni near Richards Bay, in partnership with the Dube Traditional Council. “It’s a 45-seat remote computer learning centre, internet café, call and fax shop with first-class telco infrastructure,” says Muller.

The model is different from the container-based call shops that are ubiquitous in many of South Africa’s townships, says Muller. “The prefabricated units are made with ChromaDek coated sheet steel and incorporate sophisticated server and telco systems. It’s not just a place for making calls.”

Although the Esikhaweni facility is the first under the Vox Telecom brand, Muller says the model has already been extensively tested by business partners and government departments. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s Electronic Rural Access Programme (e-RAP) has opened several centres in the Northern Cape, while others have been part of CSI initiatives by companies such as Saab and BCX.