Brown: Challenges of Satellite Broadband Not Specific with Nigeria

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Regional Director, Africa at Yahsat, Michael Brown, in this interview speaks about efforts by his firm to deepen satellite broadband penetration in Nigeria. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:

Nigeria is currently battling with the deployment of broadband services across the country, because of the challenge operators face with state governments, when trying to lay fibre optic cables for broadband deployment. How can this challenge be addressed?

All over the world, broadband deployment via fibre cable has its limitations but we do not experience any limitation, deploying broadband internet connectivity services via the satellite. Our satellite deployment comes with fast connectivity and eliminates physical ground challenges in deployment because it is broadband over satellite. Together with our WiFi solutions, which we presented at NigeriaCom, we can enable hotspot locations in various parts of the country, including urban and rural communities as well as villages, without restrictions of any kind, as currently been faced by those who deploy broadband via fibre cables. The economic challenges of fibre and the time it takes to deploy is just too obvious, but there are lots of advantages to deploy broadband over satellite.

What is your experience in investing in Nigeria in the last six years?

We have reasons so speak of our success stories in the Nigerian market as we continue to grow our business in Nigeria and invest in our service partners in Nigeria. Our experience doing business in Nigeria has been good in the last six years. The industry regulator has been proactive, and it is doing well to ensure best business practice in the country, and we will continue to invest in the ICT sector in Nigeria.

What is your view about competition in the ICT sector, and what are your strategies to remain competitive?
We have strategies to remain competitive and being the number one satellite broadband operator in Nigeria and Africa, we will continue to deploy our services and also dominate the broadband satellite market in Nigeria. Yes, there is a space for every broadband satellite operator to do business in Nigeria and competition will help us bring out our best in terms of service delivery. We have strategy around our partners and around our technology offerings and we will continue lead the market because we strongly believe that we have superior products for our Nigerian customers.

Telecoms operators that offer internet services are in a new business plan of cutting down cost of internet service below what ISPs could offer. How is this a threat to business for ISPs?

I see it as price war and YahClick will not be involved in any form of price war. We will continue to try to make our solutions and service offerings as cost effective as possible for the benefit of all customers.

What are some of the challenges with satellite broadband deployment?
Yes, there are some challenges associated with satellite broadband, but the challenges are not Nigeria specific, but a global issue. There is the cost of installation, which is higher, but we are working closely with our partners to offset some of the cost.

You are in Nigeria to showcase the YahClick satellite broadband internet service. What is the relationship between Yahsat and YahClick?

From my experience this year, I see growth in the Nigerian ICT market. Yahsat is the satellite communications company of Mubadala Development Company, UAE, but the YahClick is Yahsat’s high-speed satellite broadband internet service that was launched in September 2012, providing satellite broadband coverage to more then 600 million people in over 28 countries, including Nigeria.

What is the function of the newly launched satellite and which continents of the world will the satellite be providing services?

Our newly launched satellite will cover predominantly two areas including Africa. For the first time, we will be covering and giving access to 90 per cent of African population, with the new satellite. Importantly, the new satellite has a coverage reach of approximately 70 territories and unique markets in Africa. The new satellite also brings additional capacity and speed of technology and it is cost effective.

When was the satellite launched?
The new satellite was launched in South America in January this year and we have been deploying its services over the last few months since it was launched, and we have appointed new service partners to enhance its fast deployment. Its services have been launched in different African territories like Ghana, Democratic Republic of Kongo, and the service is already deployed in Nigeria.

How will the service improve broadband access in rural communities?

The best way to improve and enhance broadband connectivity in rural communities is to deploy satellite broadband, which comes with higher speed of deployment and with strong internet connectivity and with ease of deployment. Satellite broadband connectivity can allow up to 60 per cent of the entire population of a community at the first instance. It’s easy to deploy hotspots in rural communities, using satellite, without fibre cables. So, satellite brings faster connectivity and that is what we will use to drive broadband access in rural communities in Nigeria with ease.

Aside rural communities, do you have plans to extend broadband connectivity to schools for research works?

We work with governments in a number of markets in the area of education. In East Africa for instance, we provided internet connectivity to a particular school for e-learning programme and for the purpose of academic research. In Nigeria, we are part of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which seeks to drive broadband services in homes, schools, and hospitals in rural communities. In Nigeria, the USPF project, which we are part of, has connected over 300 schools with internet connectivity.

Nigerian businesses yearn for speed in internet connectivity because their businesses are mainly transacted online. How will YahClick meet this demand?

Our solution addresses the issue of speed in internet connectivity for businesses, as well as the issue of downtime in businesses. As a satellite company providing internet connectivity, we do not have the challenge of fibre cut that can cause downtime in business operations and slow Internet connectivity. Satellite addresses all of that and offer in addition, instant super fast connectivity and 99.9 per cent uptime operations. We provide services based on the need of the customers. So, we have solutions for all categories of customers with different business demands.

Do you have collaboration with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Nigeria, for the deployment of your services?

We collaborate with ISPs in Nigeria to deploy our services, because our entire business model is built around providing wholesale connectivity to our service partners, as well as educate and train our partners. We have a number of ISPs we are working with in Nigeria like Hyperia and we are in the process of getting more ISPs for the fast-growing internet business in Nigeria.

How will you advise your customers in terms of effectiveness and business agility, on the best broadband channel to invest in, between satellite and fibre optic cable?

Satellite globally, is more expensive than fibre in terms of deployment and usage, but it has better speed of internet connectivity and offers better business experience than fibre. However, in the area of cost, that will not be an issue, because with the launch of our new satellite for African operations, our target is to reduce the wholesale cost for satellite deployment to enable more businesses enjoy the high speed of broadband connectivity via satellite. In the next few weeks, we will come out with strong marketing campaign that will drop wholesale price of satellite deployment.

There has been concentration of ISPs in urban communities because they want quick return on their investments, thereby neglecting investments in rural communities. How will YahClick address this challenge?

Our primary markets are the underserved and unserved communities, which best describe the rural communities. Our satellite covers wider areas, which enable us to deploy services to all communities, including the urban, underserved and unserved.

So, what stands you out as a satellite broadband company among others?
Several factors make us uniquely different from others. First is the instant connectivity service that we offer to our customers and we do not have long deployment time. Again, we have robust infrastructure that guarantees connectivity to a wide area of communities and we have dedicated solutions that address customer challenges. We are also unique in the ongoing reduction in the price of our service delivery.