Satellite broadband offering for SA
Johannesburg - SA connectivity technology service provider Maxwell Technology has been appointed to market a new satellite broadband offering in SA.
The new product, SkyeMax is powered by SkyeVine, and provides broadband access to the internet via satellite.
"As specialists in VSAT [Very Small Aperture Terminal] communications across Africa, we have been searching for an entry-level, affordable satellite broadband option that will provide ubiquitous coverage," said Kallie Carlsen, technical director at Maxwell Technology- a subsidiary of Barnstone Corporate Holdings.
Carlsen added that the SkyeMax product addressed several important niche markets that were currently underserved by the existing broadband infrastructure. SkyeMax was optimised for reaching remote areas, and would be able to provide many communities with their first access to the internet.
The new service would be accessed via a satellite dish, with the basic service costing approximately R750 per month, which would include the first 1GB of data.
Maxwell Technology noted that top ups could be purchased easily, while unused capacity could be rolled over into the next month. Purchase of the dish and installation costs represent an upfront cost in the region of R6 000 to R7 000 including a wireless dongle for those using a desktop computer as well as a VoIP telephone if required.
"The availability of ADSL and GSM-based broadband is often overstated. Even in urban areas, availability is far from uniform," said Carlsen.
"In addition, unlike the majority of broadband offerings, SkyeMax is truly uncapped because we don't restrict the speeds of certain kinds of data. Rather, following the cellular model, we offer a differentiated pricing structure to encourage customers to schedule when they download certain types of data."
The technology illustrates that although satellite broadband is still an expensive options for South Africans, there is a need to roll out cable broadband infrastructure.
"I think that it's absolutely correct to say that in South Africa at the moment there are more last mile wireless broadband connections than there are wired," said Dominic Cull, Internet Service Providers' Association regulatory advisor.
"You need those broadband cables for the fibre backbone, otherwise it just costs too much to push it over satellite.
"Bringing it down on cable reduces the cost; Bringing down the cost of traffic along those cables - we do things like global caching. Certain of our products are cached locally, and that stops it from going back up Europe and saves some international broadband," said Brett St Clair Google SA head of mobile.
According to Maxwell Technology, SkyeMax offered the potential to improve rural education by making the internet accessible to teachers and children in remote schools, while for rural entrepreneurs it could offer the opportunity to establish internet cafés in townships or remote areas.
It also had particular applicability to the agricultural and hospitality industries, both of which often operate from areas without broadband at present.
"For farming communities, SkyeMax has obvious security applications, especially as it has no terrestrial infrastructure that could be compromised," Carlsen noted.
"In addition, we feel that it has real use as a backup when the normal internet connection goes down. Some businesses cannot afford to have the internet go down for a few days - for them, SkyeMax is a real lifeline."
SkyeMax used the Intelsat New Dawn geostationary satellite which was launched in April. It was the first private commercial satellite fully funded and partly owned by South Africans.
SkyeMax would offer speeds of 4mbps (megabits per second), comparable to current ADSL speeds.
"SkyeMax offers a compelling proposition for all South African homes and small businesses that are currently without broadband access-and it's backed by a consortium that really understands the business and can deliver excellent backup," Carlsen said.