Africa Insights from Ajay Jethwani, VP of Sales, Africa
Unlocking the potential of satellite services in Africa
Today, African economies are well positioned to leverage rapid technological change. Africa is forecast to grow slightly above average global levels despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the number of Africans living within the reach of a fiber optic node has increased to 584 million and near 40 submarine fiber links are in place across the west and east coasts of the continent, there are still an estimated 340 million people living outside the reach of a terrestrial node.* COVID-19 has shed some light on areas where the satellite industry can shine, brought about by the following developments:
COVID-19 is encouraging enterprises to embrace cloud and mobility trends. Once these businesses have begun their journey towards a cloud-based environment, it is highly unlikely they will ever go back to their previous systems.
Many businesses are encouraging meetings to be conducted via video links to not only ensure effective communication but also monitor the well-being of employees and bolster operations in this time of need. Videoconferencing and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco Webex and Google have sprung into demand.
Visa, Mastercard, AMEX and mobile money platforms in Africa like M-Pesa are already benefitting from long-standing trends where physical cash is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Today, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) accounts for 64% of active mobile money accounts globally. Four out of five mobile-money-based international remittance transactions occur in SSA. This is one of the key driving revenues for mobile network operators (MNO) in Africa.
Online shopping is gaining momentum amongst all age groups especially during the pandemic. Customers are adapting to the online shopping environment, setting this as a possible trend of when and how people will shop.
Streaming, gaming and video content platforms
This is perhaps the most obvious example of a beneficial segment. There has been a huge uptake of video streaming from education to home, entertainment and social media. The number of sub-Saharan pay-TV subscribers is expected to reach 40.89 million by 2023, a 74% rise on 2017 figures, according to a study by Digital TV Research.
Telecommunications companies (“Telcos”) are focused on increasing network resiliency and evaluating how COVID-19 impacts their planned investments, particularly in 4G (Africa). They are also making changes to benefit customers who need networking services more than ever. In some countries, data is also being used as a tool to track and contain the spread of the virus. The need for ever-faster access to data and automation will accelerate developments in network equipment and communications as never before, speeding up 4G & 5G network deployments.
SSA will remain the fastest-growing region, with a CAGR of 4.6% and an additional 167 million subscribers over the period to 2025. This will take the total subscriber base to just over 600 million, representing around half the population. Rural telephony will be the next frontier and by 2025, mobile broadband will account for 87% of mobile connections. Today, one-third of the African population have smart phones and the forecast states that by 2025, Africa will have the highest growth rate globally in terms of adoption of smart phones.
How is ABS in Africa harnessing opportunities?
ABS is geared toward addressing potential market segments with its diversified satellite fleet to cover Pan-Africa. ABS has three satellites: ABS-2 (75 °East), ABS-2A (75 °East) and ABS-3A (3 °West), with over 12 beams of C, Ku and Ka band dedicated to cover the Africa continent with excellent elevation angle and high power.
ABS is working with its teleport partners in Africa to ensure it meets the demands of various segments and applications.
Intranet and private networks
With the ongoing demand for achieving secured online transactions within a corporate environment, ABS has partnered with VSAT teleports in key African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, DRC and South Africa to address the need for connecting to central application servers with minimal latencies. Most of these applications are latency sensitive and hence VSAT networks with a single hop (less than 700 ms) are preferred. Through its partner network, ABS ensures clients’ branch offices, depots and remote offices can connect to their headquarters with least latencies. ABS partner network consists of a hybrid network with VSATs installed at remote sites while fiber, and fixed wireless/microwave is used as the last mile to connect the headquarters to the VSAT teleport.
Some of the applications and segments being catered on ABS’ network are ERP Servers, financial & banking applications, government departments (customs, police), military, supply chain & logistics companies.
Internet-based networks (VPN)
As cloud-based applications emerge with centralized servers hosted in different parts of the world, remote offices and users who are spread across Africa will need to access the central servers in a cost-effective and secured way. ABS offers a solution on Ku- and C-band VSAT network through its partner teleports to achieve seamless connectivity between the remote sites and the central servers. Value-added services like VPN and firewall services are offered to enhance the security of these transactions. Large organizations with wide area networks and multiple remote sites can subscribe to a pool of bandwidth to reduce costs. This enables idle bandwidth to be optimally utilized by a branch or a user demanding more bandwidth within the subscribed pool bandwidth. ABS offers data center services through its partner network in SSA including Teraco in South Africa, which has a world-class data center infrastructure.
Some of the applications and segments being catered on ABS’ network are telemedicine/telehealth services, distance education, videoconferencing, ERP, banking and VoIP.