Africa’s Socio-Economic Development Depends on Satellite Services

New research has revealed that wireless industry efforts to take massive amounts of additional spectrum – amounts that have been shown to be in excess of actual requirements – would undercut African economies, and threaten social and safety-of-life services by disrupting mission-critical satellite services for key applications delivered throughout the continent.

The research, which was conducted by international consultancy firm Euroconsult and commissioned by the European Space Agency, was revealed here during the VSAT 2014 conference, as organizations representing a variety of African user groups – including broadcasters, humanitarian and disaster-response agencies, civil aviation authorities, and other stakeholders – reach out to their governments to convey how essential C-band satellite services are for continued socio-economic development.

“Euroconsult’s report re-affirms what African governments, industry, and millions of individuals have long taken for granted,” said David Hartshorn, Secretary General of GVF, the London-based global association of the satellite communications industry.

“C-band satellite services provide highly reliable, cross-border and continental broadband connectivity that is a cornerstone of African socio-economic growth. We endorse Euroconsult’s conclusion and commend the European Space Agency for commissioning this timely research.”

Euroconsult, which recently confirmed similar reliance on C-band satellite in the Asia region (, examined three country markets representative of the diverse economies of southern, western and central Africa, and found that – in addition to the millions of consumers who rely on C-band television – the wireless, banking and finance, energy production, civil aviation, and government sectors were particularly reliant on satellite networks using C-band spectrum, which is prized for its reliability and scope of coverage.

“These findings stand in stark contrast to claims made by representatives of the wireless industry which, regardless of the consequences, are attempting to seize C-band for their own use,” Hartshorn said.

“C-band communications are being represented by wireless manufacturers from Developed Countries to be of declining importance, but that is clearly not true in Africa, most of Asia, Latin America and other regions where conditions are fundamentally different than in South Korea, Japan, and Sweden. In particular, C-band communications are part of the bedrock of daily life and economic activity in Developing Countries.”

A sample of African uses of C-band networks described in Euroconsult’s report included:

Nigeria: The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of Nigeria says TV households reached over 11 million in 2013, representing a 33% penetration, and they are highly reliant on C-band satellite capacity, principally for contribution to earth stations. Given the fact that terrestrial reception remains the principal TV reception mode for a large part of the population, C-Band is required for the Nigerian television industry to operate.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: For DRC’s 25 – 30 million mobile subscribers, satellite remains a primary option to connect a large part of mobile networks, and ISPs are currently using C-band capacity as primary backbone network for International connectivity. Despite the introduction of fiber connectivity in certain cities, its limited reach, as well as concerns on data-rate availability and transmission reliability, means that C-band capacity remains the primary option or a mandatory backup option for connectivity.

Angola: According to IMF, oil revenue accounted for almost 80% of total government revenue and grants in 2011. As most of the oil exploration in the country is through deep-water projects, VSATs are a major communication channel for the industry. C-band is preferred, as the oil fields in the west coast are affected by high rainfall and energy companies typically require reliability levels above 99%.

All Three Nations have recently recorded increasing investment that has contributed to a boosting of their economies. A key segment is banking. C-band satellite connectivity facilitates the opening of new branches.

This in turn favors banking inclusion by giving access to banking services for millions of existing and new customers. The use of C-band capacity for video distribution and contribution links will also be very important for the rollout of digital terrestrial television, which will accelerate in the next few years in most of Africa.

The report notes that C-band communications benefit from two physical characteristics that make it central to Africa’s environment: resistance to “rain fade” and availability of wide beams. “There is simply no substitute that can equal the coverage and the reliability of C-band satellite beams,” says Hartshorn. As a result, billions of dollars have been invested in C-band satellites over Africa, providing almost half of the total satellite capacity used in the region.

“Between now and November of 2015 – the date of the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva – national administrations will be making key decisions on spectrum priorities,” said Hartshorn. “African governments need to factor Euroconsult’s analysis and conclusions regarding the huge contribution by satellite C-band communications to their populations and their economies.”

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