Global satellite telecommunications network operator O3b Networks on Tuesday signed a multi million-dollar deal with South Africa-based Mavoni Technologies, which would see the roll-out of Internet Protocol (IP) broadband connectivity to underserviced municipalities in the Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
O3b Networks was building a $1,2-billion satellite-based global Internet backbone, with a constellation of eight medium-earth orbit (MEO) satellites, which would launch at the end of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.
The MEO satellites would be four times closer to the earth than traditional communications satellites, which means lower network latency, and allows faster web access, clear voice communications, and video conferencing.
O3b Networks said that its satellite transponders provide throughput comparable with fibre networks, but with the benefit that they could easily extend to locations in remote areas with no access to fibre.
O3b Networks CEO Steve Collar explained that each satellite has 10 beams, with a capacity of 1,2 Gb/s, and coverage reach of about 600 km. Because beam locations are flexible, they can be directed to different locations on earth.
As the local South African partner, private equity backed Mavoni has secured capacity from one beam, and was in discussions with municipalities to provide services and connectivity for schools, clinics and other municipal service providers.
Mavoni CEO Tinyiko Valoyi said that although no contracts have been signed with municipalities yet, advanced discussions were taking place and contracts would likely be finalised towards the end of 2011.
He added that the Northern Cape would be one of the first provinces to be connected, as it was an often neglected area when it comes to connectivity. Limpopo and Mpumalanga were also high priorities.
“These are traditionally areas that fiber networks are not able to reach. In partnership with the provincial government of Limpopo, we intend to connect more than 500 schools in rural areas. We are also working with the Department of Education in the Northern Cape to provide connectivity to over 1 500 schools. This will impact the lives of more than 185 000 students,” explained Valoyi.
Mavoni would distribute the O3b Network’s capacity, and run the local network and ground terminals. A central operations centre would allow for monitoring as well.
Mavoni would work in parallel with O3b Networks, so that after the launch of the satellites, the South African network would be a part of the commissioning phase in late 2012, early 2013.
Valoyi said that the aim was to have at least 100 schools connected when the network went live.
The South African Local Government Association said that initiatives such as this were important in terms of service delivery, and would be supported as long as they were competitive.
Satellite capacity was traditionally more expensive, but Collar said that prices would be close to those of South African terrestrial capacity pricing, as affordability was a major concern.