Ladi Okuneye – O3b’s Business Development Director, Africa
Mobile operators, ISP’s and corporate customers in Africa remain in search of a solution that provides more bandwidth, at a low latency, where they need it.
The liberalization of the telecommunications in Africa has taken the market into a frenzy of growth. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, between 2008-2012 approximately $3 billion was spent on new sub-marine cable systems. During this period, this region was also the most active in the world in terms of telecommunications investments. Thanks to much larger investments by mobile operators, over 63% of Africans now have access to mobile phones.
Despite the growth in investments, the percentage of Africans with access to broadband (anyone using above 256kbps) is16%. With voice services, there is a direct correlation between the investments made by mobile operators in these markets, and the growth of tele-density. However, the same cannot be said about broadband penetration, when comparing the recent investments in submarine cables to the growth in access.
A deeper analysis reveals one of the challenges is the distribution of excess capacity from the cable landing stations to the population pockets where the end-users actually reside. This is partly due to the high cost, or lack of reliability of the inland inter-city terrestrial networks that plague most of these markets.
These challenges are not reducing the market’s appetite for more bandwidth, nor slowing down investment in the region. Between 2007 and 2012 the available bandwidth has grown from about 150Gigabits to over 1.9 Terabits. Smartphones continue to become more affordable, and services such as social media, are no longer considered merely recreational services but actual business tools. Operators are still in need of a holistic solution that provides them the bandwidth they need, where they need it, and in a way that is compatible with the applications they intend to run.
Source: Submarine Telecoms Forum
O3b Networks has recognized these challenges and redefined an advanced set of services, at prices the African market has long waited for. The O3b network is designed to give its customer’s unparalleled ground, transponder, satellite and teleport redundancy throughout the network.
Somalia’s newest ISP, Glocall Telecoms LLC is one of many customers in the region confident they will not experience the network outages that have plagued fiber infrastructure in the continent. The multiple layers of redundancy in the O3b network will ensure operators will have the opportunity to recover from almost any network failure without downtime. O3b has managed to bring down the cost of bandwidth, due to the lower cost to launch and smaller satellites – that only needs fuel to be sent into a Medium Earth Orbit.
O3b’s lower latency means that as both MNO and ISP customers, such as RCS-Communications in South Sudan, can consolidate on LTE as the future evolution of broadband. This means there will be a technology that can ensure their networks remain future proof – regardless of how far away from the cable head-ends they need to deliver service. This is certainly good news for Africa.