New satellite connectivity model set to empower township/rural entrepreneurs
BUSINESS| Aug. 17, 2012, 9:02 a.m.
Maxwell Technology has launched a new product, Satellite Hot Spot, which it says has the potential to transform the business model for providing connectivity to underserved communities in townships and rural areas.
World Bank research has shown a direct correlation between broadband penetration and gross domestic product (GDP): every 10% increase in broadband penetration increases economic growth by 1.38%.Broadband rollout is thus perceived as a vital driver of desperately needed job creation in South Africa, which is why it is a flagship project of the Department of Communications.
“However, finding the right business model for low-income areas where computers are in short supply has proved to be difficult,” says Kallie Carlsen, technical director at Maxwell Technology. “The problem has always been the high costs of putting in terrestrial infrastructure as against the lower rate of return. Satellite has always seemed to be the best technical alternative but, again, the business model hasn’t been right—until now. When we came across this product we were blown away because it has the potential to turn this sector on its head.”
The Satellite Hot Spot product is offered by Sat-Space Africa, a leading provider of reliable and innovative solutions to Africa’s connectivity challenges. It uses the AMOS 5 satellite to provide connectivity to even the most remote areas — with only onsite satellite dishes and routers required.
The product is aimed at rural entrepreneurs wanting to set up Internet cafes, lodges and hotels situated in remote areas and even wireless operators looking for a stable alternative or addition to their terrestrial infrastructure.
The key, says Carlsen, is the Satellite Hot Spot’s innovative billing model. The traditional per-month billing model means that the client is charged for bandwidth even if it is not sold on to end customers.
By contrast, the Satellite Hot Sport uses a router to connect to the Sat-Space billing system, allowing the entrepreneur to purchase vouchers per end user—in this way, connectivity is only charged for once it is used, effectively creating a prepaid model.
“This billing model is a huge innovation in the satellite business, and we are first to market in Africa,” says Shimri Lotan, the sales director of Sat-Space Africa. “We are creating the conditions to make Internet connectivity a reality for those living in remote areas. Every dollar invested in Internet connectivity has an immediate impact on the education, self-development and welfare of users.”
“The prepaid approach was pioneered here in South Africa and, one could argue, lies behind the phenomenal growth of our mobile market,” Carlsen observes. “I believe that by applying it to satellite connectivity, we are now in a position to change the dynamics of the broadband market in our underserviced areas.
It’s all about removing the risk for the resellers of connectivity, be they township/rural entrepreneurs or tourist destinations. The business is always cash positive and this means that it will be in a position to offer a cost-effective product to its customers—and because the cost is based on time and not bandwidth, the connectivity experience will also be superior.”
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