Satellites Enabling Africa’s Digital Revolution
Now that digital switchover is (again) very high on the agenda in Africa, one cannot look at it without examining the relevance of satellites and what they can bring to the timely and cost effective roll out of the digitization in Africa. Indeed, in a continent where the deployment of terrestrial telecommunications infrastructures is not always possible and, quite often, cost prohibitive especially to remote rural communities, satellite is probably the fastest and most effective as well as the most reliable and economical way to distribute content and instantly connect people everywhere.
Video consumption has become a key driver behind the need to rely on satellites. As we all know, the popularity of streaming services has grown tremendously over the past couple of years. With consumers getting used to the variety of content distribution platforms, traditional broadcasters are increasingly using the satellite technology to enhance and expand their services offerings.
In addition, even though Africa is often seen to be mobile-first with many things, high definition television technology is quickly becoming the norm as more consumers are buying HD sets than ever before resulting in ever-increasing demand for more high definition channels which are best delivered via satellite. The demand and the production of local content immediately benefit from these developments and the transition to digital television as we observe the emergence of various pockets of content creation across the continent.
Widespread access to video is also impacting on mobility. Smartphones are increasingly accessible to consumers across the continent with download speeds making it a very effective medium to broadcast content. Here again, the satellite technology that supports 3G deployments more effectively brings this mobile video content to audiences throughout Africa.
The satellite connectivity extends to general internet access as well. Even though internet penetration is approximately 30 percent in Africa, expectations are high that it is catching up to the global average of 50 percent as more mobile users are resulting in higher demand for data and better quality of the connected experience.
Finally, customers across the public and private sectors require communication solutions that meet all regulatory and security requirements. From defence to humanitarian applications, the satellite technology provides the most effective springboard into the digital world as terrestrial networks are simply not sufficient or effective enough in today’s digital marketplace.
Africa is a huge continent with 54 different markets. These markets all require different, nuanced approaches to connectivity. Satellite has become integral in meeting the digital switchover needs of all these countries as millions of people can be connected with just one beam on a satellite. Given the opportunities and potential that exist in Africa, the continent is uniquely positioned to benefit from the connectivity offered by satellites and their ability to empower its populations to live and grow in a digital world.