Executive Director, Sales, Africa, at Yahsat, Mr. Boyd Chislett, was in Nigeria recently for the NigeriaCom conference. He spoke withÂ Emma Okonji on the importance of satellite-driven internet access for high speed connectivity in underserved and remote communities. Excerpts:
NigeriaCom, is a global telecommunications event organised annually by Informa Telecoms Group, and Yahsat participated fully in the 2017 edition that just ended. What is the importance of the conference to Yahsat and its customers?
NigeriaCom is important to us as a business, to further strengthen our business relations with existing and intending customers. We do not necessarily see it as a platform to sell our products, but as a forum to further communicate with customers and relaunch Yahsat and its solution called YahClick, which is our flagship product that offers internet connectivity to several millions of people, via the satellite. We used the occasion of NigeriaCom to further strengthen our business relationships with customers and partners. So the idea to attend this year’s NigeriaCom, was not actually to sell our products, but to demonstrate to the Nigerian market that our entry into the Nigeran market in 2012, was a calculated plan to have a long term business in Nigeria, and to help Nigerians and the rest of Africa to enjoy real time internet access and connectivity. So being in the market for five years, we want to be the true leader in internet, providing internet access to the people.
You talked about Yahsat and YahClick concurrently. What are the differences and similarities between them?
Yahsat is the organisation with a host of subsidiaries under it, while YahClick is the product, which is the high speed internet connectivity, using VSAT, via Satellite. YahClick drives the content and ensure that customers get the best out of Yahsat. So we can say that YahClick is the brand of the product offered by Yahsat, throughout Africa.
Yahsat uses the K band instead of the C and KU bands. What could be the reason for your choice of K band frequency in providing internet services to your customers?
Our choice for K band has more to do with the speed of internet services that we offer our customers. For us, the K band operates at high speed internet connectivity Â with low power consumption and the technology allows us to deliver our technology solutions to the customer that needs speed in his or her operations. It enables us to provide cost-effective solution to the customers. On top of that, all the equipment that we use are low power consumption equipment, which allow us to deliver services to our customers on the back of effective technology that will enhance customer experience. In running any kind of business, effective cost management is the key to the survivability and growth of the business, hence we were careful in our choice of equipment, because we want good returns on investments for our clients.
So we considered better and cheaper ways of bringing technology to the customers, hence our choice for the K band.
Yahsat is known for providing internet services via the satellite broadband. Why the choice of satellite and what makes it different from providing internet services through the fibre optic broadband?
Broadband in the traditional sense of it, had always focused on Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, through the deployment of fibre, WiMAX and other top solutions. But broadband has a meaningful role to play in internet connectivity and our satellite services complement it. This truth is that operators cannot successfully rollout broadband internet services in rural communities, using fibre optic, hence out choice of satellite broadband that can penetrate remote areas of any economy and bring internet services at best quality. But our focus is not to compete with fibre optic operators, but to complement their services, especially in providing internet services in far remote areas. So with the satellite broadband internet service, we are able to make internet services available to the underserved in various communities. It also enables us to provide internet services to schools, hospitals, individual homes, offices, and organisations, with a strong focus to connect them in areas where they do not have access to the telephone. That is the importance of VSAT in broadband internet service and that is the role we play as a technology solution provider, via satellite.
Why do you say satellite service offering does not compete with fibre optic service when actually the service providers are different in operations with different ideologies, but operating in the same market and offering the same kind of services to the same kind of customers?
What I mean is that both service offerings from satellite and fibre do not compete with each other, even though both may compete in terms of the different technologies driving them. I see satellite service offerings as complementary services to fibre operations in all the markets that we operate.
Broadband penetration in Nigeria, which is currently put at 21 per cent, is still on the low side. How will satellite broadband help to deepen broadband penetration in the country?
Let me give you a bit of my background. I started business with the offering of broadband services, using fibre, before entering into the satellite business. Satellite, because of its numerous advantages to penetrate faster into rural communities. So it is a compelling factor to deploy internet connectivity using satellite. For sure, satellite broadband will certainly facilitate faster penetration of broadband services across the country.
Communication is fast shifting from voice to data. How will satellite service offerings further boost data communication?
In West Africa specifically, satellite plays a huge role in data communication. It plays this role in several ways. Firstly is by connecting various schools, hospitals, and public institutions in remote areas that have no access to telephony. So, we are currently rolling out services in rural communities through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) by our partners locally. We have connected several schools in the process, using satellite solution. So we had to select satellite because in most cases, we operate in places where there is no fibre optic presence. We use satellite to provide better quality of education to the rural schools. It has brought about the design of relevant curriculum for schools, and it allows us to provide consolidation records for the healthcare section of the Nigerian economy. This is one of the key benefits of our satellite data service connectivity.
SMEs are drivers of every economy and several of them have sprung up in recent times. How can they key into Yahsat technology solution?
Recent studies have shown that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), need access to broadband, because they need data for the kind of business that they do. SMEs play a unique role in growing any economy and they need to be supported with easy and cheaper broadband access. To achieve this, Yahsat partnered local service providers in Nigeria toÂ help drive SME business in Nigeria. We try to make solutions available to them and at affordable price. Without satellite it will be difficult for the SMEs who serve the rural communities to remain competitive in business.
Who are your local service providers in Nigeria and how far have you been able to drive your solutions through local partners?
We are currently expanding our footprint in the area of local partners. Our approach in market penetration is that we will first understand the market in which we operate, and we will ensure that customers get the desired fast internet connectivity. In Nigeria, we have partners like Hyperia, Coollink and another partner that we recently signed on board. But I cannot share the details of other partners that we have, for strategic reasons.
Businesses are looking for solutions that will reduce overhead costs. How will Yahsat help service providers reduce their overhead costs?
What we offer as satellite service, is part of consumer metrics and we offer in two ways. Firstly, we provide a primary solution and we also provide a secondary redundancy. So we try to provide services at very low cost. We try to simplify our technology and reduce cost to a great extent.Â Again, we work with schools and create a Local Area Network (LAN) for them. We see our service offerings as enabler that drive business processes.
Yahsat was a gold sponsor to the NigeriaCom 2017 that recently ended. How will the sponsorship impact on your business and that of your customers?
As sponsor to the NigeriaCom event, it will help us as a company to better achieve the goal of connecting one billion people in Africa. Our solution is designed to connect the unconnected, so the sponsorship was critical for us to showcase the kind of business that we do, but not at the level of commercial concept because we are investing in the various economies, including that of Nigeria. So we are happy that we sponsored and we will continue to sponsor. Our desire is to provide better solutions that will drive business processes in Nigeria.
The kind of service that you offer, drives content, and content is key to digital transformation. So what is your take on content development in Nigeria?
Content is key like you rightly said and what we want our partners to do in this direction, is to empower value added service providers to create content that is relevant to today’s digital world. We monitor our partners and ensure they deliver quality device and content to our customers.
Satellite, no doubt, has high quality delivery, but many perceived that satellite services are more expensive than fibre optics. What is your view on this?
Yes, satellite is expensive but the quality delivery is also the key. What we have done is to invest in equipment that will further reduce cost of service offerings.
The equipment we use makes our satellite service offerings a lot cheaper, when compared with the initial high cost of deploying satellite services.