New player in rural SA broadband - TechCentral

New player in rural SA broadband

Kallie Carlsen

Wholesale Internet access provider Sat-Space Africa has launched a new product it hopes will drive up Internet penetration in rural areas.

Its Satellite Hot Spot product, launched last week, allows entrepreneurs in outlying areas to buy and resell uncapped Internet connectivity in increments of an hour.

Connectivity, which is provided using the Amos 5 satellite, costs R10/hour, and requires an initial outlay of R14 000 for the necessary equipment.

Using satellites to offer data is increasingly popular in SA, with Vox Telecom having recently partnered with satellite company Yahsat to offer its own satellite broadband services under the YahClick brand.

Although Satellite Hot Spot is essentially a prepaid product, Vox’s offering is meant to provide full-time connectivity. Pricing for YahClick starts at R163/month over and above installation costs.

Satellite Hot Spot is targeting entrepreneurs and small businesses in outlying areas that want to set up Internet cafes, lodges and hotels in remote areas. The service is also suited for redundancy or emergency connectivity for those who want an alternative to terrestrial solutions.

Maxwell Technology, the company rolling out the product in SA, was started in 2007 and provides last-mile connectivity solutions in underserviced areas. The bulk of its customers are in the mining and engineering sectors, but with Satellite Hot Spot it hopes to sign up guesthouses, Internet cafes and anyone wanting to sell Internet by the hour.

Maxwell Technology technical director Kallie Carlsen says one of the longstanding obstacles of providing connectivity to remote areas has been the high cost of terrestrial solutions. He says that although satellite has long been suited to the purpose from a technical perspective it was, until recently, also prohibitively expensive.

What makes Satellite Hot Spot a viable option, says Carlsen, is its billing model. Rather than supplying an always-on service for a flat monthly fee, it’s sold in units of time. Each hour is uncapped and resellers can decide how much they want to charge over and above the R10/hour the vouchers cost them.

“The prepaid approach was pioneered here in SA and, one could argue, lies behind the phenomenal growth of our mobile market,” says Carlsen. He believes the same thing could happen in satellite access, especially in rural areas.

“It’s all about removing the risk for the resellers of connectivity,” he says.

Hardware installation, which includes a 1,2m dish, modem, cables and wireless router, costs R14 000.

The service offers speeds of 4Mbit/s on the downlink and 1Mbit/s on the uplink, which makes it comparable to fixed-line broadband.

Carlsen says the service isn’t aimed at metropolitan areas, even though it will work in the cities.

Resellers can opt to buy vouchers in bulk. Alternatively, resellers can buy vouchers as required online.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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