Do you live in an area not well served by fixed lines or mobile broadband? A new start-up, SkyeVine, a joint venture between JSE-listed Ellies Group and Q-Kon, wants to plug the gap with a new broadband satellite offering.
And it’s promising prices that are comparable to high-end digital subscriber lines from Telkom, with similar speeds. The company, which has purchased capacity on the recently launched Intelsat New Dawn satellite, will launch commercial services in mid-July, says CEO Steve Rich.
Rich, who has decades of experience in the satellite market — he assisted with the launch of TopTV, for example — says Skyevine plans to offer services across sub-Saharan Africa and is promising download speeds of 4Mbit/s and uploads of between 128kbit/s and (eventually) 512kbit/s at fees that will be affordable for high-end consumers and small businesses.
The company is in talks with Internet service providers to take the product to market, and will make extensive use of Ellies’ satellite equipment installation teams and distribution channels.
Rich says the cost of satellite bandwidth has finally fallen to a point where it makes sense to offer broadband Internet access to consumers in areas that are not well served by Telkom and the wireless operators. Q-Kon will operate and manage the network. Business Connexion is providing a satellite teleport facility in Midrand.
Skyevine has partnered with Belgium’s Newtec to supply “customer premises equipment”. Rich says a full installation, including satellite dish and equipment will run to about R6 000. Services will not be capped, but a pay-per-use model will apply. The product is not likely to appeal to consumers who subscribe to uncapped digital subscriber line products.
Rather, the product will be aimed at rural areas, periurban areas where copper theft is rife, and the cities where the mobile operators and Telkom have poor coverage. The company will also pitch it as an alternative connectivity option.
“Our main focus will be on providing broadband to the underserved and eventually to the unserved,” Rich says. “We realised we weren’t going to be the cheapest in town but we’ve managed to be competitive with the top-end fixed-line broadband environment.”
A complex data inspection and billing system will encourage consumers to download large files, like movies, at night, rather than during the day when there’s more demand on the network, he says. “We won’t restrict the use of bandwidth but we will charge a premium for people who want to do extensive downloads between 8am and 5pm.”
Skyevine hopes to sign up between 5 000 and 10 000 subscribers a year across sub-Saharan Africa. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral