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With Internet solutions being a highly profitable and competitive industry, there are only but a few companies who have brought massive change to the way we consume data.
This ever-growing industry has seen countries like South Africa boom in internet usage. Such is the growth of internet users, that according to Statista, as of January 2020, South Africa’s digital population stood at an amazing 36.54 million Internet users, of which 34.93 million were mobile Internet users. Therefore, Internet reliability is now more prevalent than ever before, yet South African’s living in more rural areas such as many parts of NZKN, tend to generally deal with unstable internet solutions, with but a few providers being the exception to the norm.
Despite what many might think, South Africa is not staying in the technological dark ages for much longer. In fact, satellite-based Internet services are growing to the point, whereby they will begin to aggressively compete with fibre and mobile broadband in the coming years.
According to reports, the bulk of South Africa’s highly populated areas can hook up to the Internet either through fixed-line connectivity or mobile data coverage, through two of SA’s biggest service providers, Vodacom and MTN.
Remote areas with fewer inhabitants do not offer a high return on investment in fibre and base station infrastructure. This means they either have an extremely weak signal or no data signal at all.
One of the few alternative options available to users in remote areas is satellite-based broadband, however, the cost involved in the past were substantial. In order to get connected to a satellite Internet service, users require satellite Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), which is very similar to that of a DStv dish unit.
Interestingly, the equipment transmits and receives connectivity to and from a satellite which is positioned in geostationary or geosynchronous orbit and is stationed at a mindboggling 36,000 km away from Earth.
Despite the distance, because of the satellite’s position, it is capable of providing coverage to greater areas.
Jacques Visser, Head of Wireless at VOX, claims two of the main issues with current satellite broadband connectivity is latency and cost.
He says the distance for data packages to travel from the CPE to the satellite and then to landing station result in high latency, which causes a delay at the user. Furthermore, he says the service is rather expensive due to the high costs of the CPE, its installation and international Internet breakout when the landing station is located on another continent.
However, as technologies advance, in recent years huge advancements have been made, which have seen improved data throughput. Especially in terms of satellite connectivity, in Ka-band.
MorClick claimed Ka-band uses higher frequencies than older satellite technologies, Due to the high frequencies, bandwidth is increased. This means a higher data transfer rate, as well as better performance and speed.
The technological improvements have allowed both MorClick and Vox to roll out uncapped satellite broadband products.
Visser explains there are currently about 10 major providers who are responsible for 95% of the services provisioned over many different satellites. What makes this beneficial for South Africans, is that MorClick has noted three of these are available in South Africa.
During the lockdown, MorClick said it has seen increased demand for its service. This is largely due to the need for reliable, affordable Internet connections. A need which continues to grow for both small businesses and people keeping their homes and families connected.
Such is the development, that MorClick feels that satellite will soon become the preferred choice of South Africans, especially for those living outside of key city areas.
With satellite Internet solutions becoming more accessible and more affordable, South Africans have much to look forward to. Especially with the launch of Starlink.
Billionaire through brilliance, Elon Musk’s Starlink venture, is one of the most well-known LEO projects in the world.
The Starlink venture aims to launch a network of 12,000 satellites into orbit, providing global connectivity to both remote and hard-to-reach locations.
This service is expected to support the latency of as low as 20ms. This is because the satellites are expected to orbit at only 550km above the earth.
Visser anticipates that Starlink might replace many legacy services currently in use, possibly taking over backhauls of GSM towers and ATM connectivity.
Furthermore, it will be an alternative for redundant terrestrial services. Visser believes it can also play a vital role in mobile and tracking services.
So when can we expect to jump onboard this internet of the future from Starlink?
According to reports, Starlink is set to begin service in the US and Canada by the end of 2020, with a near-global rollout due in 2021.
With Elon Musk planning to go global with Starlink and satellite Internet providers offering better services, can we expect a new dawn in the internet age, in the coming months and years? Only time will tell.