Taking the satellite route for data exchange

Dawie_de_Wet_CEO_at_Q-KONFor various businesses, there is merit in considering investment in satellite-based communications service over Short Message Service (SMS) for data exchange, says Dawie de Wet, CEO at Q-KON

On a price-per-packet of information basis, SMS is the most widely used communications channel in Africa – and the most expensive claim experts in the rollout and service of satellite infrastructure, according to de Wet.

SMS runs on controlled channels and networks. According to de Wet, cellular service providers have their own rate sheets for the provision of the SMS facility and these will obviously vary. He says a closer inspection of in-bundle and out-of-bundle rates on a pay-as-you-go basis reveals that a comparison between SMS and the average equivalent data cost favours that of satellite.

“This is about a change in mindset. Mention the word ‘satellite’ and it is immediately associated with exorbitant cost. The fact is that innovation is driving cost down, technology has evolved and platforms are far more suited to widespread use and application. In addition improvement in infrastructure and focus on connectivity is helping to ensure that the environment is more conducive to satellite and satellite services,” says de Wet.

VSAT is now being used extensively within rural ICT infrastructure development and skills development initiatives, across wireless hotspot/ cyber-café-type or ‘hotzones’ as well as within small business development.

Ongoing research and development coupled with continuous improvement in design and performance has helped ease the flow of satellite access services locally and into Africa.

Management at Q-KON say it is now a case of being positioned to supply a demand in the market. According to de Wet, this demand is fuelled by a growing acceptance of what satellite can do and how best to position it to leverage off benefits.

“The retail price of satellite services is around $100 per GB, which is equivalent to approximately R820 per GB. If one considers that the SMS service is provided at a minimum average cost of R1.6 million per gigabyte, there is an obvious difference. It is something that most people would not necessarily think of," adds de Wet.

The question then is how can such an expensive service be used so widely in Africa and considered cheap by most users? The answer, says de Wet, lies in the business model used and the difference between ‘cost’ and ‘affordability’.

Q-KON focuses on the application of technologies in innovative ways according to unique business models that offer services at affordable rates.

“Even if satellite technologies are generally considered expensive, as a solution it can be affordable as communications infrastructure and connectivity increase in importance throughout the continent, the role of service providers has come under the spotlight.

“The offer of a cost-effective communications alternative that is reliable, fast and secure can only bode well for the future of the continent and its contribution to global ICT and telecommunications development,” he concludes.


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