MzansiSat to provide affordable broadband capabilities for Africans

Vox and YahSat aim to position satellite as a competitive data and voice solution for both individuals and businesses in underserviced areas.
MzansiSat to provide affordable broadband capabilities for Africans
MzansiSat to provide affordable broadband capabilities for Africans

Satellite Internet offers low upfront as well as monthly running costs, while providing extremely high reliability. This is, therefore, the most suitable option for African Internet access, because they are rugged and reliable. Using satellite allows for remote areas to have access to the internet. With satellite, organisations are not dependent on existing landline and cellular infrastructure.

MzansiSat, a Stellenbosch based satellite company aims to launch a South African-owned and operated geostationary satellite , MzansiSat-1 by 2022. The company revealed that it is struggling to secure regulatory approval. According to MzansiSat, the satellite will offer fast internet while ensuring greater access to technology and connectivity. The locally developed satellite technology will have the ability to deliver cheap and widespread broadband capabilities

Victor Stephanopoli, COO at MzansiSat outlined the company’s mission to connect citizens and give them access to the information and opportunities that come with online connectivity. He further stated that MzansiSat is an Afro-centric company that values customer and stakeholder relationships.

1. How does MzansiSat plan to provide affordable internet access to South Africans?
We aim to do this through our own, South African-owned and -operated Satellite and Payload.
Through that system, we provide a strategic data transfer node with ground-segments, within the C & Ku band.

Unlike Ka-Band Satellite technology, we are using a technology that beams only ONE static beam as a technical footprint, not several small ones, that need more default ground infrastructure (At leat one per beam), also we do not suffer from risk of rain fade and losing links.

Also, it shall be noted that a number of Ka-Band Licence holders fail to generate substantial profits, because of their high distribution prices, tacked on top of already high operating costs.

2. What sets you apart from other service providers in South Africa?
In the field of Satellite technology and operation? We’re Afro-centric and want to cater for our local market. SA is not just another market.

Furthermore, our ground infrastructure needed to link up to our satellite, once it’s launched is very cheap compared to comparable companies and operators. In many cases existing satellite dish infrastructure can be used to link up to our network.

Also, Service. We do not just wish to provide a connection, but also maintain a relationship with our stakeholders and have ongoing discussions as to how to improve the platform we supply, insofar, that entrepreneurs, businesses and government services can build their solutions on top of it.

3. What has been the reception from the market?
So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from most sides; we’re currently open to government / administrative review approval of our system, along we’re in negotiations with stakeholders.

4. How would you describe the African telecoms industry?
I mean you got the big ones, MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Airtel…
And where they are providing service, they provide reasonably good service.
But, things become more interesting when you walk away from the beaten track and you venture into the countryside; this is where our core market is:

We can work together with companies like the aforementioned ones to roll out service in even the most remote areas of the continent, by allowing local ground-segments linking to our satellites to feed into communal networks, be them 5G or Wi-Fi, the possibilities are endless. We also can support operators to supply simple 2G networks where they want.

So there’s a few classic / legacy TELCO’S out there, and then we have the ISP’s.
Nobody talks about phone calls anymore today I feel. Everybody communicates via the internet.

And everybody sees a market and I have stopped counting how many ISP’s there are in Africa. It’s very confusing to say the least. All of them – be it the local cooperative or the international Juggernaut however, struggle with the same challenge these days: Getting access to reasonably affordable bandwidth – and not just that; In order to enable growth you have to push the limits, and in our (the African) case we have to push further the areas in which internet is available.So we have the Geography issue, a much-segmented market and let’s add the cherry on top of the cake: Speed.

Assuming that a community or user gets a connection, be it through us or through an ISP or whatever – If the connection is stable but slow it basically is feeling to the user like there’s no internet to begin with. Today’s overall percentage in internet traffic its ~54% (last time I checked), which means is that if any player in the industry wants to be taken seriously, download speeds must allow users to download SD-grad video footage to their devices at any time during normal network-load-factors.

Our Satellite can offer a 16Mbit/s downlink to its base stations.

There’s some latency in the range of 500-900ms, but I think in areas where you have the choice between a connection with latency and no connection at all, it is a no-brainer. If people do not like it they can walk down the road to the next coffee shop… If it has an internet connection… or if there even is one.

5. What does the company aim to achieve with the launch of MzansiSat-1 and how do you plan to do so?
We are here to do business and we’re feeling right at home in the B2B and B2G sector.
MzansiSat’s charter is in line with all SA labour and ethnic diversity codes and once we’re growing one of the first action we take is to launch a programme to form and train the next generation of telecoms and satellite tech engineers.

Furthermore, something we’re already planning, for when we’re online are services and products and sustainable investments based on our infrastructure to empower South Africans and Communities to use the internet and to break down the #DigitalDivide.

By Fundisiwe Maseko
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