AfriCAN insight 

Building Africa's digital future in the ground and in the sky

Investment and innovation in satellite services is helping to transform businesses across parts of Africa. Scott Mumford, Group Managing Executive – Satellite & VSAT at Liquid Telecom, explains why satellite is the perfect complement to fibre.

Satellite enables the provision of seamless broadband services to some of the most remote parts of Africa.

Offering speeds of up to 50Mbps, Liquid Telecom's satellite network serves an ever-expanding base of customers, which include some of Africa's largest mobile network operators, ISPs, multinationals, SMEs, government and public sector bodies.

Due to growing demand from these customers, Liquid Telecom has significantly expanded the reach of its satellite network, which now supports over 2,500 sites across Africa.

In many cases, satellite services are helping to transform businesses and stimulate local economies in areas with otherwise limited infrastructure. Take, for example, Liquid Telecom Kenya's partnership with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).

KCB has one of the largest banking networks across East Africa, and has been able to expand its reach further by using Liquid Telecom's satellite services. In particular, it has been able to connect 24 of its branches in South Sudan by using VSAT technology, which has allowed faster and more efficient banking services for its South Sudanese customers.

The absence of critical ICT infrastructure in countries such as South Sudan can have costly implications for regional banking institutions. Satellite services are an excellent solution for the banking sector in these areas, enabling them to establish reliable links for ATMs and point-of-sell devices as well as be used for any other internal connections. In addition to helping banks attract a wider customer base, high-quality satellite services can help bridge the economic divide, enabling local populations to have access to banking services for the first time.

It's not just the financial sector which can benefit from satellite services across Africa. Tourism is the fastest growing industry in many African nations, with millions of tourists attracted to the region's spectacular wildlife reserves.

Many of the most desirable tourist hotspots are located in national parks far away from critical infrastructure. Satellite is a great fit for many of these safari lodges, enabling them to provide reliable, high-quality voice and data services to their guests.

As well as serving enterprise customers located in areas where fibre is not available, Liquid Telecom's satellites services are also helping to support Africa's broadcast sector. In December 2015, Liquid Telecom became the broadcast service provider for Africa's largest new pay TV provider, KweséTV, which has been granted the exclusive rights for major sporting events including the English Premier League Free to Air and the NBA League.

Liquid Telecom has demonstrated its commitment to satellite by making major investments to its satellite network. Last year, for example, it invested US$3.5 million in a second satellite hub at a data centre in South Africa, while more recently Liquid Telecom signed a multi-year agreement with Eutelsat to use multiple transponders on its 7B satellite.

As well providing additional capacity, these investments ensure Liquid Telecom's satellite services utilise the very latest equipment and technologies, in order to support the rapid growth of its enterprise and broadcast customers.

Liquid Telecom may have gone on to build Africa's largest independent cross-border fibre network, but the company began life as a satellite operator. Its satellite heritage can still be felt strongly throughout the organisation today, playing a valuable role in supporting existing customers, while also helping to attract new business for the company.

There are many wonderful qualities to fibre – it delivers higher bandwidth and reduces latency to name just a few – but deployment is not always economically or logistically viable.

Satellite services will therefore continue to be a compelling and widely-used solution for many African businesses as they grow across the continent. Liquid Telecom is well positioned in the ground and in the sky to support them on their journey.

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