Cheap, reliable and fast internet coming to Africa thanks to UAE

Dubai: Satellite communication companies in the region and beyond are bringing broadband over satellites to the region, with the promise of delivering faster and more reliable internet.

The satellites come with the Ka-band technology that provides internet with a speed of up to 18 megabits, from one to two megabits through conventional alternatives, said Shawkat Ahmad, chief commercial officer of Yahsat, an Abu Dhabi based satellite communication company. The move comes as a response to the growing regional demand for higher bandwidth as consumers increase their media consumption.

Already, Yahsat has launched Yahclick, its satellite broadband internet product, in six markets across the Middle East and Africa, including Afghanistan, South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, and Iraq, among 28 regional markets. They are currently in talks with service providers to bring the product in the UAE, and will be making an announcement in the coming months. Currently, they have sold close to 30,000 terminals since October last year.

The product is targeted mainly at government entities, as well as businesses in the oil and gas sector and home users living in remote areas. It delivers faster and more reliable internet connection. So, consumers living in areas where internet connection cuts off easily will find large gains with this product. Also, with multiple devices connected to the internet in the home, the connection still remains fast.

YahClick uses the Y1B satellite, which is the first satellite in the region to provide internet connectivity through the Ka-band multi-spot beam technology. The multi spot feature re-uses frequencies to increase spectrum efficiency and reduce the cost of satellite service. “Re-using frequencies should lower the cost on the operators as it creates more throughput, which leads to more revenue,” said Richard Lamb of SES.

SES, a Europe-based satellite communications company is launching the Astra 2e satellite, which will provide internet connectivity to the region in the second quarter of this year. The satellite will have the ka-band technology, but without the multi-spot feature, said Richard Lamb of SES, adding that it does not affect the quality of service on the consumer’s end.

Additionally, the YahClick receiver is affordable due to its small and few components, according to Ahmed. The antenna that comes with it is 74cm in size, compared to the 1.2 to 2.4 m antennas of conventional satellites. In Africa, it costs around $400 to set up the system, compared to around $4,000 to set up a conventional one, Ahmed said.

The product has so far seen much success in Africa, he said. “We are working on big projects, bringing this product to schools in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Afghanistan,” he added.

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