Satellite Connectivity as Broadband Enabler

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 Nigeria is making efforts to achieve 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of the year. But experts opine that investment in satellite connectivity will enable faster broadband penetration, writes Emma Okonji

Since 2013, Nigeria had the foresight to deepen broadband penetration and provide ubiquitous internet access that will further boost eCommerce business, which is an emerging market in Nigeria.

The foresight, no doubt, informed the decision of the federal government to develop a five-year broadband plan for the country (2013-2018), designed to boost broadband penetration from 10 per cent  to 30 per cent by 2018. Although experts had lauded the vision and foresight of the federal government to deepen broadband penetration in the country, they have also faulted the implementation process, which they said lacked the right investment plan to fast-track broadband penetration in the country.

While some experts believed that government must invest in broadband infrastructure for last-mile delivery of broadband services, others are of the view that government must invest in satellite connectivity that will enhance faster broadband penetration across the country.

The General Manager, MDXI Data Centre, Mr. Gbenga Adegbiji, who spoke with THISDAY on the importance of investment in satellite connectivity to further deepen broadband penetration in the country, highlighted the recent partnership between MDXi and Avanti on satellite connectivity and the essence of such partnership as broadband enabler for Nigeria.

 

Bridging broadband connectivity gap

Despite a fairly articulate broadband policy, Nigeria has not been able to attain initial targets of 30 per cent fixed broadband penetration, occasioned by poor broadband infrastructure and lack of the right investment plan. As Africa’s biggest economy, experts have warned that Nigeria stands the risk of being left behind on the global technology map if it does not emulate global best practices and ensure broadband infrastructure deployment to major cities and rural areas in the country and as quickly as possible too. While broadband infrastructure companies remain focused on delivering services and infrastructure to deepen broadband penetration and support critical business and social needs across the region, policy limitations continue to make infrastructure gap a reality.

 

MDXi and Avanti partnership

Giving insight to the recent MDXi and Avanti partnership deal as broadband enabler, Adegbiji said MDXI Data Centre partnered Avanti Communications to host and manage their in-country Gateway Earth Station (GES) at the MDXi Lekki data centre. This partnership has already delivered the build out of Avanti’s first GES in West Africa, hosted at our satellite antenna farm in Lagos and will attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of up to $20 million into Nigeria.

Ahead of the launch of Avanti’s HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellite, MDXI had provided a home for their GES with intention to cover all of Nigeria. The gateway in MDXI will ensure data from the HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellite is delivered efficiently in-country and interconnected with other networks already connected at MDXi Data Centre.

Giving further details about the partnership, he said the MDXi parent company, MainOne, is committed to broadband proliferation across West Africa and continues to push towards keeping the region at the forefront of satellite and broadband technology development.

“This partnership is to foster the development of relevant broadband products to serve the needs of millions of consumers across Nigeria that are currently without internet capacity. Now, we have the opportunity to make accelerated broadband expansion possible via fixed broadband and satellite, to overcome last-mile gaps experienced in fibre infrastructure and enable the attainment of 30 per cent broadband penetration target identified in the National Broadband Plan,” Adegbiji said.

 

MDXI support for HYLAS 4 satellite 

As the region’s premier carrier neutral data centre, MDXI will provide mission-critical data centre services to Avanti as well as extensive interconnections with other operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), content and payment providers, Over the Top Technologies (OTTs) and the Nigerian Internet Exchange. MDXI’s data centre campus hosts one of the largest Teleport Antenna farms in the whole of West Africa with gateways to four major international satellite networks – EMC, Nigcomsat, Speedcast (Harris Caprock) and now Avanti. This provides Avanti with premium teleport facilities for its West African coverage.

MDXI is also well positioned to serve Avanti as the region’s most connected carrier neutral Tier III data centre,  interconnecting not only the region’s major network providers but also enabling smaller ISPs.

According to Adegbiji, MDXi currently has direct connections to all mobile network operators in-country and 22 network providers with services across the country. It is also connected to four top submarine cables including WACS, ACE, Glo1 and of course, the MainOne cable.

Connecting Govt, Oil and Gas companies with satellite

Experts are of the strong view that satellite communication systems could help bridge the digital divide and complement fibre broadband delivery because with the installation of a small dish, they are able to provide services to remote areas, connecting even government agencies, including oil and gas companies across the country.

“In partnership with Avanti, MainOne plans to install Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) access terminals in oil and gas companies, schools, communities and government agencies and offer support to remote onshore, offshore and deep offshore locations where connectivity services and power availability remain a challenge. We hope to impact and foster better eGovernment, eLearning, eCommerce, eHealth and eBanking services in urban and rural areas across Nigeria,” Adegbiji said.

Achieving broadband connectivity 

 

Nigeria, no doubt, needs rapid deployment of connectivity and satellite broadband communications that will complement fixed infrastructure and create a level playing ground to achieve meaningful social development, irrespective of location or distance.

The partnership between Avanti, MainOne and MDXI will ensure that satellite communications complements broadband fiber infrastructure build outs and provides a converaged solution to tackle the country’s internet access challenges. Experts believe that access to internet connectivity can only be resolved by collaborative solutions and shared services which have come to stay as the world converges into one large digital economy.

Shared infrastructure and competencies will create efficiencies in both services cost and operations and enhance competition and the competitiveness of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector as a whole.

How MDXi will make the difference 

According to Adegbiji, “In line with the vision of our parent company MainOne, we are committed to faster broadband penetration in West Africa as a means of bridging the digital divide and launching the West African region into the next digital economy.

“This is why MDXi invested about N13 billion in building our data centre in Lekki. We are currently investing an additional  N2.5bn to expand to second phase (Wing B) of the project. We also have upcoming data centres in Sagamu, planned for 2019, as well as in Accra and Cote D’Ivoire.”

“The MainOne group has a role to play in Africa’s technology narrative and believe this is a significant industrial opportunity that will keep the continent at the forefront of data centre and broadband technology development in order to  bridge the digital gap,” Adegbiji said.