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Submarine cables will not replace satellite

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In some quarters submarine cable is considered the alpha and omega of telecommunications – with little thought for the role that satellites will continue to play.

Peter Gbedemah, CEO of Gateway Communications believes that cable is the beginning. “Cable systems promote connectivity and competition in the African market. In regions with large cable implementations like Seacom we will see demand increasing, as fibre shows the kind of telecom services that can be delivered – to consumers and businesses. That in turn increases demand where there may not be access to cable. However, in addition to powering new services, satellites will also continue to provide back-up for cable.”

The argument that many cable operators put forward against satellite communications is the delay that satellites introduce because of the frequently long communication path. Gbedemah disagrees with that argument, as Gateway has designed its services specifically for satellite. “Yes, the paths can be much longer but the resultant delays are not insurmountable. There are many new mitigation technologies.

“A good example is the introduction of an accelerated internet access product that delivers data direct to small (3,7 m) antenna installed at client premises. IPJetDirect provides direct, high speed, low latency connections to the global internet backbone – and other selected networks – to improve quality issues often associated with both mobile and African content. The service enables African operators the opportunity to connect their mobile or fixed network to the worldwide web.”

Peter Gbedemah said that IPJetDirect was developed in response to a clearly identified market need. The service allows customers to profitably increase revenue and minimise churn in the highly competitive market for African mobile data access. Features such as enhanced techniques for caching and web acceleration, state-of-the-art traffic shapers and monitoring systems make it ideal for delivery via satellite.

Gateway Communications remains the largest independent provider of satellite capacity in Africa, with more than 37 equivalent transponders deployed over Africa, ensuring scalability of access to meet the rapid on-the-ground growth in mobile data services.

“We are the largest provider of backhaul facilities for African mobile operators, illustrating how functional satellite systems are. Mobile operators choose satellites as the fastest way to roll out their network while working on building microwave and fibre backhaul infrastructure as their networks grow,” said Gbedemah. When a satellite backhaul link is no longer required it can be relocated to another new area. This is a simple and very cost-effective approach.

Gateway has satellite hubs in South Africa, Lagos, Accra, London and Brussels, serving some 40 countries in Africa.

Gbedemah admits that there are some natural delay issues, which can be alleviated when building a network by ensuring that there are no added delays introduced by the equipment deployed. “We deploy intelligent systems that evaluate where a call originates and terminates, thereby being able to select the shortest possible route, minimising chances of multiple hops. We do this for both voice and the internet calls. For example, traditionally a call from Kinshasa to, for example, Abuja in Nigeria would have routed via London. With the network now in place the call is directed through the shortest possible route without either caller being aware of how the call is established. This also means that more Africa to Africa traffic remains over Africa, greatly reducing the cost and improving the revenue of local operators.”

Another enhancement is that the network can ‘look ahead’ and determine in real-time if the subscriber is available. If engaged or not logged onto the network, the call is not established and the caller receives either the ‘busy’ or the ‘subscriber not available’ message from the local operator. “This stops the network being utilised for unproductive calls.

“We are not blind to fibre and will roll out fibre links to connect with the submarine systems where customer demands require it and the pricing models work to everyone’s advantage. Our network is set up to provide customers with the most appropriate connectivity based on their geography, topography and service requirements, including fibre, wireless and satellite to ensure best service. However, I foresee that for many years to come satellites will be connecting Africa”, Gbedemah said.

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Written by techran

September 19, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Industry News

Tagged with ,

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