Connectivity key to the fourth industrial revolution


The fourth industrial revolution needs the right infrastructure, particularly information and communications infrastructure as exchanging information is fundamental to modern society. It is for this reason that South Africa-based MzansiSat is looking to launch South Africa’s own communications satellite to provide low-coast broadband internet to Africa.

MzansiSat Chief Operating Officer Victor Stephanopoli, speaking at the recent Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference hosted by Creative Space Media in Pretoria, said South Africa needs to create ubiquitous connectivity. One option is to spend billions of dollars “digging up ground” to lay infrastructure – another option is satellite telecommunications.

“Before we can push the economy to grow we need to cover the basics. I advocate ubiquitous internet connectivity,” he said.

MzansiSat believes that connectivity is an essential component of Africa’s development, with internet access vital to a wide range of industries. Apart from its indispensable role in the industry, reliable internet can be used by governments to provide better services to citizens, and it can improve the quality of people’s lives.

At present Africa’s existing telecommunications infrastructure is for the most part slow, unreliable and geographically limited. This geographic limitation is primarily driven by the high cost of terrestrial infrastructure and maintenance, MzansiSat points out. As such the number and density of people in remote communities do not justify the large capital investment. At the current trajectory, a large percentage of the African populace would likely never benefit from high-speed internet access.

“There is thus a huge need for affordable and accessible connectivity that can help bring the fourth industrial revolution to the African continent. A key part of this will come from satellite internet, which can overcome the challenges facing traditional internet access, as it has low upfront and running costs and extremely high reliability, giving independence from existing infrastructure.

“At MzansiSat, our mission is to launch an African owned geo-stationary broadband satellite to provide cost-effective, high-speed, reliable internet for the continent, and bring the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution to every person in Africa, regardless of where they are,” MzansiSat said.

MzansiSat wants to connect communities and stakeholders by providing fast and cheap service. MzansiSat can offer a service whereby it provides the hardware – in this case an internet satellite – and operators only pay for the share they need over the typical 15 year lifetime of a satellite. Stakeholders are free to use capacity as they wish, with MzansiSat having no control over content or use. With a MzansiSat satellite, connectivity will no longer be at the mercy of foreign third party providers.

MzansiSat’s satellite would have 24 Ku-band transponders and 14 C-band transponders available to commercial and military users alike. It would cost R16-32 million per year per transponder. For an investment of R490-R650 million for the satellite, break-even is expected within 3-5 years.

MzansiSat does not compete with broadband suppliers but supplements them. Its solution requires minimal ground infrastructure, meaning it can also reach each and every point in Africa, however small and remote it may be.

“We’re less about selling data through the transponder, than leasing transponder capacity that enables applications and services to be built on top of it,” Stephanopoli said.