Africa’s digital landscape, much like the continent’s physical landscape, can best be described as one that is both vast and expansive. Improving economic conditions over the last few years have led to fast growth rates in telecom, which in turn helps create opportunities that impact all aspects, both socially and professionally.
According to Deloitte, on average, mobile subscription penetration has reached 72% across Africa (with penetration rates varying by country). Further growth in subscriber levels will be driven by better network coverage in rural areas and operating models adapted to serving such remote connectivity needs and mobile data connectivity, among other factors.
This speaks well to the growing opportunities for satellite communication in Africa. Up to this point, improvements in satellite connectivity have helped lower the cost and bridge the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world. But coming innovations could mean that satellite’s most prominent role is still on the horizon.
While the majority of satellite capacity demand across Africa remains allocated to media and direct-to-home, opportunities in enterprise connectivity continue to take shape across the continent. This is driven in part by a growth across multiple segments like finance, health, offshore oil and gas and mining along with changing market dynamics for traditional satellite markets like mobile backhaul. Taking oil and gas, for example, VSAT connections have become an ideal technology in these markets for sending large data files such as seismic images and supporting greater use of video, among other bandwidth-intensive applications.
Add in the ongoing role that government is playing in adopting digital communications and the influx of mobile applications, including mobile banking, mobile health and even various agricultural-based solutions and the need for capacity in Africa is accelerating.
The coming of high throughput satellites (HTS) should help to meet this accelerated demand for bandwidth that is building across Africa. Statistics from NSR project the Middle East and North Africa region to be among the more diverse markets for HTS applications with 50 Gbps of demand by 2023, 16 Gbps of which will be driven by enterprise. In the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, 95% of HTS throughput utilized will be enterprise and broadband access.
And while the coming of HTS helps to handle this influx of demand, an important piece will be associated with the wireless transport of such data in a reliable and cost-effective manner. As such, mobile backhaul remains one of the most significant of growth markets on the horizon. Satellite with its unique capabilities of ubiquitous coverage, high reliability, fast installation combined with new wireless infrastructure capabilities utilizing small cells create a more cost effective solution for connecting remote and rural areas throughout Africa.
In all, this speaks to the role that we in the satellite industry must continue to play ensuring the infrastructure is built in the most cost-effective and reliable manner. The industry is changing and new innovations are coming.
iDirect continues to be laser focused on developing satellite infrastructure that enables satellite operators and service providers to deliver the most reliable, cost efficient connectivity solutions to the market. The iDirect intelligent platform including our universal hub, single network management system and portfolio of remote terminals enables connectivity in Africa and around the globe.
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