The telecommunications and satellite sector have a long relationship, as satellites have helped telcos to offer connectivity where terrestrial infrastructure could not be built. This is still the case for Africa, where service providers are offering their services mainly through satellites, as there is a lack of mobile and fixed infrastructure.

“Given the terrain in Africa, satellite technology is used widely throughout the continent and in many areas, the only source for connectivity,” says Jean-Philippe Gillet, vice president EMEA sales at Intelsat, to CommsMEA.

Zahid Zaheer, senior director GMPCS affairs at Thuraya Telecommunications, agrees and adds: “There is strong demand for satellite services all across Africa because of the unavailability of terrestrial communication infrastructure, both fixed and mobile. All countries in Africa are developing countries and satellite technology plays a critical role in meeting the communication needs and demands, and the essential connectivity requirements for landlocked countries.”

Thuraya highlights that the World Bank estimates a GDP growth of approximately 1.8% for every 10% increase in broadband network penetration in the country. In addition, information communication technology helps increase social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Therefore, Zaheer believes that this dependency that Africa has on satellites is positive for the countries.

“Satellite technology provides an alternative to terrestrial communication infrastructure. In case of any disruption and unavailability to terrestrial communication infrastructure, satellite technology helps bridge the gap,” he adds.

“While there may be a perception that satellite is expensive, internet penetration in Africa is less than 30% and satellite provides the most efficient and reliable means to bridge that digital divide,” says Gillet. “Unlike other technologies, the strength of satellite is its ability to effectively and cost-efficiently cover large areas, providing the means to deliver reliable broadband connectivity to everyone in Africa or the Middle East, regardless of location. Even wireless networks are limited in reach, and satellite also expands their reach. Ubiquitous access to broadband is satellite’s forte.”

Khalid Balkheyour, president and CEO at Arabsat, believes that the fast development of new satellite technologies have allowed to reduce the total cost of ownership to levels comparable to telecom operators in some areas and services, making connectivity more affordable. “Satellites allow for quick setup, overcoming of geography barriers and a high availability to sustain businesses and networks associated with them.”

Eric Loos, senior product manager capacity and IP at BICS, says that satellite has a huge advantage, as capacity can be provided over a very large area.