ITNewsAfrica.com: What is Gilat’s main focus in Africa today?
Nir Korman: As a leading manufacturer of V-SAT technology, we provide satellite infrastructure and technology to operators and telecom throughout Africa, especially to rural markets. Gilat has been focused in Africa on rural telephony as one of its main goals. Worldwide, we cover 83% of rural markets.
Today the shift is towards providing low-cost ownership systems more tailored to the broadband IP market. We mainly focus on two markets: the government market and the private, enterprise market. We find that there is a growing demand for turn-key solutions that can be used for universal service applications and can be operated by the enterprises alone in some cases with remote support from Gilat.
In Africa, the challenges are to provide the same level of service in rural areas as in urban and create a backbone over satellite to back-up terrestrial fibre networks. Today, satellite is not just a last-mile solution to reach remote areas, but a back-up solution attractive to operators.
ITNewsAfrica.com: Can you give examples of recent Gilat projects in Africa?
Nir Korman: We have come a long way since establishing the first rural network for Telkom South Africa a decade ago. We have over 10,000 sites across the continent, with over 3000 sites just in South Africa and we are actively involved in several projects across the continent with the Ethiopian telecommunication operator and other telecom providers.
We have provided infrastructure for elections in Nigeria and Angola and educational solutions such as e-learning in Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria, to bring education from urban to rural areas through satellite communications. We have also installed one of the biggest lottery networks in both Eastern and Western Africa. In Morocco we were commissioned to do 2000 sites and we expect this to be a growing trend in the coming years.
ITNewsAfrica.com: Any expansion plans for 2011?
Nir Korman: Africa is our largest strategic market in terms of resources, investment and focus on developing technologies tailored to this market. We have 16 offices worldwide, one office in Pretoria, South Africa and we will launch additional offices in Kenya and Nigeria in 2011 to keep up with our clients’ demands.
On the other hand, we are looking into expanding our enterprise services in the banking sector and to cellular operators. We have just landed a project with Kenya Commercial Bank, which will implement the infrastructure needed to connect with its all East African branches. In Nigeria, we cover 80% of the banking market communication infrastructure through our service providers. The broadband services are mainly used for communication among branches and for ATMs.
For mobile operators, we will provide low-cost ownership solutions to enable them to add more subscribers from rural areas and develop add-value solutions such as mobile banking services.
By Denisa Oosthuizen