Ka-band satellite services to boost broadband access across Africa


Despite the advent of more than 20 optic fibre cable networks now reaching African shores, satellite services will continue to fulfil an important role in providing the telecommunications infrastructure for urban centres as well as inland and remote areas, particularly as new high capacity Ka-band satellites come on-stream.

This is the view of Soheil Mehrabanzad, assistant vice president, Middle East/Africa, Hughes Network Systems, the global leader in broadband satellite networks and services. Speaking at a Hughes seminar alongside the SatCom Africa 2011 conference in Sandton last week, Mehrabanzad said Ka-band wave technology began in earnest in North America with the launch of the Hughes SPACEWAY3 satellite system in 2007. “Ka-band satellite has now become one of today’s fastest-growing technologies because of the growing demand for capacity,” he said.

Hughes is supplying its high-performance Ka-band HN broadband satellite system and terminals for the ground segment of the Yahsat 1B satellite to be launched towards the end of 2011. This will be the first Ka-band satellite to provide broadband Internet access to South Africa and other African countries.

Hughes is also providing Vodacom with its high power Ka/Ku-band terminals solutions in anticipation of the arrival of Ka-band satellite services in Africa as Vodacom propels aggressive expansion of converged service offerings in South Africa and throughout the continent.

According to Mehrabanzad, the demand for broadband is exhausting the available capacity of existing C- and Ku-band satellites. “Enterprises increasingly depend on media-rich applications to grow their businesses. Governments need high-bandwidth applications to deliver services. And consumers want to watch movies, make VoIP phone calls, and browse the Web – all at the same time.
“Ka-band technology makes this possible over satellite, breaking down the communication barriers faced by millions of households and businesses globally that lack access to terrestrial broadband service – or can’t get Ku-band services because the spectrum is saturated. The high bandwidth available in the Ka spectrum and frequency re-use capabilities across multiple beams enables the delivery of more capacity at faster speeds to smaller dishes – opening the door to upgraded services at lower costs.”

Utilising geostationary satellite coverage available from a choice of operators worldwide, Hughes provides the capability to deliver broadband Internet services virtually anywhere. “Our approach is to understand the psychology, culture, and needs of each region, and then to use this knowledge to develop appropriate solutions,” said Mehrabanzad. In South Africa, Hughes works with local partner, SAAB Grintek to provide a managed network service.

Hughes is helping governments close the digital divide among several of South Africa’s BRICS partners – Russia, Brazil and India. And in Mexico, Hughes has provided a government-sponsored school network serving as Internet access centres for the community. It has also had success with e-learning projects in Ethiopia.

While Ka-band offers huge potential in a range of market segments, including corporate, government, military, education and transport, Hughes sees most opportunities for growth in high-speed satellite Internet access for consumers.