Smart Satellite Service Connectivity Alternatives

Emerging satellite technologies are opening new and attractive alternative options for connecting consumers, schools and businesses across Africa. The intrinsic advantages of satellite services, combined with the new performance and cost metrics of Smart Satellite Services, can now deliver scale and feasibility to connect the previously unconnected. 

Why are alternatives needed? 

4G mobile networks continue to grow and to include additional 5G options for future service delivery. In addition, the rapid expansion of fibre networks has given rise to a general initial view that there is no need to develop additional technology options. 

However, work presented by BCG Analysis at the recent ITU “Emerging Technology for Connectivity” seminar, as referenced below, clearly illustrates the degree to which connectivity demands remain unmet. Given the bandwidth and speed requirements, BCG Analysis contends that the only feasible technology options to meet the anticipated demand are 4G, wireless ISP, satellite and fibre.

The intrinsic benefits of satellite

The intrinsic benefits of satellite technologies include rapid deployment, ‘available anywhere’ and always-on signal coverage, no network infrastructure build requirements and high service availability. Comparing the proposed technology solutions in ‘off-grid’ scenarios provides valuable insights into the suitability of Smart Satellite Services for these applications. 

Percentage of population with no internet access and the related school connectivity footprint. Source ITU. Giga School Mapping. BCG Analysis.

However, until recently these intrinsic advantages of Satellite Services were very much limited by two significant, disadvantageous features of the previous generation of satellite services. That is, the lack of high throughput networks to deliver the required 20Mbps data circuits to large numbers of sites, and the price point of satellite data services.

Due to these constraints the large-scale deployment of satellite services to close the gap and connect ‘off-grid’ locations in Africa, often did not extend beyond niche projects. 

Enter: Smart Satellite Services and its Advantages 

Smart Satellite Services are offered on recently launched high-throughput satellite networks such as the Intelsat Flex global constellation. These offer new and attractive performance and cost metrics. These new generation satellite constellations change the fundamentals of satellite service delivery and enable a wide spectrum of new applications and service delivery options. 

In addition to these fundamental performance and rate advantages, Smart Satellite Services such as Twoobii-on-Flex also integrate advanced content management, quality-of-service, real-time application-aware service delivery and application-specific billing models. Thus, Twoobii services can offer a complete end-to-end connectivity solution to meet all requirements.

Mobile 4G Fixed WirelessFibreSatellite Twoobii Smart Satellite 
Services available everywhere in the regionNoNoNoYesYes
Rapid service deployment possibleNoNoNoYesYes
No network infrastructure NoNoNoYesYes
Low implementation costNoNoNoYesYes
20Mbps data speedsYesYesYesNoYes
Sufficient network capacityYesYesYesNoYes
Feasible services ratesYesYesYesNoYes


The principal advantages of satellite technology when it comes to connecting rural schools and communities are well-known, as outlined above. However, these advantages were historically largely nullified by the data capacity limitations of satellite networks and the commercial rates charged by the previous generation of satellite data services. 

Modern high-throughput satellites such as Intelsat’s Flex constellation eliminate the capacity and data rate constraints. Services can be offered at attractive capacity and rates suited to large-scale rural deployments. Added to the specialist functions and features of Smart Satellite Services such as the Twoobii-on-Flex platform, this creates a very attractive option for connecting the previously unconnected. 

Article supplied by:

Dr Dawie de Wet (Pr. Eng. M.Sc. Eng.) – Group CEO of Q-KON and Chief Engineer for Twoobii, a southern African supported satellite broadband service. With over 30 years experience in designing, engineering, developing and implementing wireless, microwave and satellite communication systems in Africa, Dawie is focused on developing Telco solutions that integrate user requirements, emerging markets and leading technology.

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