40% of Sub-Saharan Africa face digital divide over broadband access

Satellite communications has a crucial role to play in helping to bridge the digital divide which currently disenfranchises large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new socio-economic report launched by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO).

Satellite communications has a crucial role to play in helping to bridge the digital divide which currently disenfranchises large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa (image: file)

The report, which is sponsored by Avanti Communications, states that the vast majority of Sub-Saharan Africa is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of broadband connectivity because of limited supply and very high prices. The report also highlights that broadband should not just be viewed as a consequence of economic growth, but as a driver.  Research demonstrates that a 10% increase in broadband penetration yields economic growth of 1.38%, nearly twice the impact of the same increase in fixed line telephony.

However, the CTO concludes that despite the growth of fibre optic submarine cables and terrestrial networks, 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa will be unable to access broadband services unless there is greater use of satellites as a complementary technology.

African Information Communication Technologies Ministers set a target of 80% broadband penetration by 2020 at the ICT Indaba held in Cape Town in June 2012.  However, there will be significant challenges in achieving that goal.  Currently 341 million people live beyond the reach of fibre based broadband network and the CTO report highlights the essential role of satellite based broadband services in closing this gap.

In its report recommendations, the CTO urges African governments and institutions to adjust policies and regulations to more accurately recognise the role that satellites can play in delivering cost-effective broadband access and concomitant economic growth.

The CTO’s CEO, Professor Tim Unwin, said: “The latest generation of Ka-band satellites will be able to provide a far more cost effective solution than the existing C-band and Ku-band.  This dispels the idea that satellite is just too expensive, but in fact provides a complementary technology to fibre and mobile in enabling broadband access across Africa.”

David Williams, Chief Executive of Avanti Communications, said:  “We are delighted by the findings of the CTO report; it provides further evidence for the role of satellite broadband in reaching beyond the bounds of terrestrial and wireless networks. Avanti’s new Ka-band HYLAS 2 satellite will provide high-speed broadband to businesses, communities and government at lower price points than that of the current satellite services deployed in Africa.

“If the world is to keep pace with demand of technology – particularly in emerging markets – then satellites have a huge role to play. Governments across the world are seeing the wide scale potential and cost-effectiveness of using satellite for economic and social development as well as for other areas including defence and security. Satellites are bringing services to a range of diverse scenarios and locations.  The most exciting thing about our role in the industry is that our technology delivers a catalyst which can change the lives of millions of people.”

Staff writer