Media


Satellite Internet quicker
2016-11-30

As fibre Internet service becomes available in more places across Africa, fast broadband Internet is becoming a reality for many citizens. However, people who live in hard to reach or isolated places will never be able to experience these speeds. Or will they?

As fibre Internet service becomes available in more places across Africa, fast broadband Internet is becoming a reality for many citizens. However, people who live in hard to reach or isolated places will never be able to experience these speeds. Or will they?

Dr Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, a satellite Internet provider, says there is good news for rural and isolated communities. “Satellite Internet is quicker and more readily available than ever before.”

“He says satellite Internet works in this type of location because it beams data to an orbiting satellite, thousands of kilometres above the planet, rather than being dependent on a hard-wired connection to a grid the way fibre does.

“The satellite sends any requests to a hub that is connected directly to the Web. The hub then sends data back to the satellite, which in turn sends it back to your machine. In a nutshell, satellite Internet is a natural progression from satellite TV, but the data flows two ways, instead of one.”

Although this might seem highly complicated, all of the data flows happen in microseconds, at speeds comparable to other Internet offerings. “However, this wasn’t always the case. In order to get a grasp of how far this technology has come, one needs to look at the origins of satellite internet, and what the future holds for this technology,” de Wet says.

It all began in October 1957, when the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) made history by launching the first satellite, called Sputnik I, into space. “This world-first artificial satellite was only around the size of a beach ball, approximately 58 cm in diameter, and weighed a mere 83.6 kg. It took around 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path.”

It was not to be expected that anyone could foresee the ramifications this little ball would have on the future of communications, he says. It heralded a new era in technology, and spurred on the space race. “Only five years after that, Bell Labs launched the Telstar 1, the first communications satellite ever.”

According to de Wet, what followed in 1963 was the launch of Syncom 2, the first geosynchronous satellite - one with an orbital period the same as the Earth's rotation period. “Syncom 2 was the first of its kind, and its orbit was inclined rather than geostationary. It was launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral.”

Then came the Internet in 1983, when every machine connected to ARPANET had to use TCP/IP, the core Internet protocol that replaced NCP entirely. “This became what we know as the Internet today. On that day, the operators of the existing networking hardware turned off all the old networking protocol, and TCP/IP-based Internet became the norm. The World Wide Web followed in 1990, and after this, geostationary satellites started gaining notice as a potential means of providing Internet through satellite.”

He says the opening of the Ka-band for satellites was another significant milestone towards the growth of satellite Internet, and in the early ‘90s the Hughes Aircraft Company applied for a license to launch the first Ka-band satellite. “Although many initial attempts to bring satellite Internet to everybody were a dismal failure, in 2003 Eutelsat launched the first Internet-ready satellite, marking the first real success in satellite Internet.”

What will be next? De Wet says since those early days, speeds have got better and better, and will only continue improve in the future. “In 2018, a COMMStellation made up of 78 micro satellites that will orbit the earth at 1000km is scheduled for launch, and promises throughput greater than 1.2 Gbit/s, and worldwide coverage.”

Satellite helps bridge digital divide in Africa
2016-11-30

There are many remote regions in Africa where it is easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world. Broadband is scarce and Internet connections are not only rare, but notoriously unreliable.

There are many remote regions in Africa where it is easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world. Broadband is scarce and Internet connections are not only rare, but notoriously unreliable.

Africa is vast and very rural in many parts. The continent is not only massive in terms of land mass, but in the potential that it represents to businesses across all industries. Corporations from all over the globe are eyeing Africa as the next place where business is set to boom. However, making this potential a reality will require overcoming some major obstacles as well as ensuring robust communications infrastructure is in place.

“The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2015 Report” by GSMA revealed that plans to bring Africa up to speed in terms of connectivity have realised some success. However, totally bridging the digital gap between Europe and the US, and Africa, is still a very long way off.

The report revealed that mobile broadband penetration in Africa is to grow from a little over 20% to nearly 60% by 2020. The continent represents enormous potential to industries of all types and sizes, but it also has significant challenges, including its sheer size, geographical differences and the plain fact that there are many regions where the terrain is not suitable, or that are hard to reach with communications services for other reasons.

Satellite is the best and most reliable way forward, and will undoubtedly have a really positive impact on the continent. Africa has come a long way technologically, particularly in terms of cellular network coverage, but there’s little doubt that ‘last mile’ coverage remains a major bug bear in terms of bringing reliable Internet coverage to the continent, not only in remote regions, but in urbanised areas too.

Satellite is the most promising solution that can provide reliable connectivity to remote and urban areas. Many are under the impression that satellite Internet is just too expensive to be a viable solution in Africa. This is simply not the case. There has been a surge in the number of satellite Internet service providers into Africa, which in turn has lowered the costs, and made the technology far more affordable.

Q-KON offers an affordable, uninterrupted, reliable, high-performance satellite solution to individuals, corporates and smaller businesses across the continent, even in the most hard to reach locations.

Satellite Internet has a multitude of advantages. It is extremely fast to deploy irrespective of location, and the last mile connectivity pain point is taken out of the equation, as are the associated limitations. Cable theft isn’t an issue either, and transport costs are significantly reduced, as is the overall delivery time and process.

Satellite is especially useful in industries that rely heavily on being in constant communications. These include financial services, educational institutions, healthcare providers and of course the agricultural sector. Satellite internet is the ideal service for any remote places, or areas where broadband is not ubiquitous, because access to it is simple and straightforward and can be done any time, regardless of location.

Africa turns to satellite Internet
2016-11-30

In Africa, technologies of all types are evolving rapidly, with one exception - Internet access. With around only 170 million users, Internet penetration remains low, at around 18%, well below the global average.

In Africa, technologies of all types are evolving rapidly, with one exception - Internet access. With around only 170 million users, Internet penetration remains low, at around 18%, well below the global average.

Low Internet penetration in Africa is without a doubt an obstacle to the continent’s development. Moreover, this is only getting worse as time goes on, so the gap is only getting wider and wider. Lack of access to the Internet is depriving many Africans of the opportunity to harness the advantages of technologies such as e-learning as well as online financial, data and health services.

This is compounded by the fact that on the continent, the existing telecommunications infrastructure can’t hope to provide reliable and consistent high speed Internet which is a non-negotiable in many sectors, such as mining, petrochemicals, agriculture and education. With reliable Internet, governments will be empowered to use the increased access to bring better services to citizens, particularly those in rural areas.

This is where satellite Internet comes in, as it has extremely low upfront as well as monthly running costs, and it offers extremely high reliability. Satellites offer the most suitable option for African Internet access, because satellites are rugged and reliable. Using satellite also means organisations are not dependent on existing landline and cellular infrastructure.

Getting good enough connectivity to initiate and maintain communication in a remote location can be a major concern. In places without cables, wireless hotspots or phone lines, for example, Internet access can be extremely tricky. Satellite Internet has changed this, and making it possible for people to keep in touch even in the most remote locations.

Perhaps the main advantage of satellite over the various other types of Internet services such as mobile, LTE or cable, is that it can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. The location of the user is not a factor in the slightest, since access can be initiated whichever country the user may currently be in. That means anyone can still be wired whether they're researching global warming in the north pole, or watching the migrations in the Serengeti in Africa.

Satellite Internet is the perfect service to use in areas where broadband isn’t ubiquitous, because it is easy to use, and highly reliable. As a rule of thumb, many telecoms providers and cable businesses avoid far-off or remote locations since there are considerable costs associated with building the infrastructure and providing the hardware for new telecoms facilities.

With satellite Internet, users are unhindered by telephone line locations or wireless hotspots, or any other ground-based facilities for that matter. They can enjoy quick and reliable Internet irrespective of where they are.

The why and how of HTS
2016-11-08

On August 24 this year, Intelsat announced that Intelsat 33e, the second of seven planned Intelsat Epic high throughput satellites, was launched successfully from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Intelsat 33e, manufactured by Boeing, will bring high throughput capacity in both C- and Ku-band to the Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia regions.

On August 24 this year, Intelsat announced that Intelsat 33e, the second of seven planned Intelsat Epic high throughput satellites, was launched successfully from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Intelsat 33e, manufactured by Boeing, will bring high throughput capacity in both C- and Ku-band to the Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia regions.

According to Africa Bandwidth Maps, Africa’s terrestrial network reached 732,662km in 2012. The fibre reach map clearly shows that most of Africa’s main urban hubs are now connected by fibre transmission networks. It also shows that the national networks are steadily increasing and connecting secondary cities.

So why develop new satellite technologies? Why invest billions in satellite services for Africa when fibre and mobile services are ever expanding and reaching more and more of the population?

With urbanisation increasing across the continent, the fibre network is focused on connecting high density zones. In fact, 173.9 million people are within 10km reach of a terrestrial fibre network, 345.1 million people are within 25km reach and 522.3 million within 50km reach of a terrestrial fibre network. That leaves 341.1 million people beyond the reach of fibre nodes.

This answers why satellite in becoming an increasingly important connectivity technology. We need every possible technology option to meet the ever-growing demand for always-on everywhere connectivity. This includes fibre, wireless, mobile networks, Wi-Fi and satellite. Plus, satellite offers some interesting advantages in providing services over vast areas, with rapid deployment programmes.

Past perceptions

There is a perception of satellite being slow, having a latency problem and being expensive. With satellite being used as a telecommunication medium since the 1960’s, it is understandable that some perceptions will persist, and technical teams tend to judge satellite from early references or general market perceptions.

The reality is very different. Satellite networks and related equipment have steadily improved, and today provide an effective alternative for broadband and corporate data connectivity. Furthermore, the gradual improvement of geostationary satellites has now taken a major step forward with the development and introduction of High Throughput Satellites (HTS).

Solving the satellite design dilemma

To understand the metrics of HTS, we need to take a step back and consider the basic principles of satellite networks. In their simplest form, geostationary telecommunication satellites are “signal mirrors”. A satellite receives a signal from the user satellite terminal and “reflects” or “relays” this signal on to the central hub or base station. The power level of the transmission signal greatly determines the maximum data rate and the effective cost per MB. The more power, the higher the data rate and the lower the MB cost.

The next logical step is therefore to increase power in order to further reduce MB costs. Unfortunately, this will also result in reduced signal coverage areas, or smaller signal zones. Finding a solution for this “design dilemma” is the basic advantage of HTS solution architecture.

By introducing multiple beams that can increase the satellite signal power through reducing beam zones, the satellite’s effective total performance is based on the sum of multiple single beam satellites. This provides a multiplication factor in data rates, a reduction in data costs and the introduction of multiple spot beams. The basic HTS design thus relies on frequency reuse to create multiple spot beams with higher signal power levels. This principle is applied in C, Ku and Ka-bands and doesn’t relate only to Ka-band technologies.

Into the future

The introduction of HTS-based services and solutions to the market will require various industry, market and implementation changes. The satellite industry is evolving at a rapid rate to meet all these challenges and make this a reality.

Going forward, satellite-based telecommunication services will certainly keep growing and will be the lead options for connecting the 340 million people beyond the reach of terrestrial networks.

Satellite brings broadband to game reserve
2016-11-03

In the more remote parts of the country, there is very little infrastructure, making it harder to provide ubiquitous broadband. Visitors to locations that are off the beaten track find that reliable Internet connections are not readily available. This can be a major inconvenience to tourists who are used to being connected 24/7, and can be a stumbling block to economic growth in these areas.

In the more remote parts of the country, there is very little infrastructure, making it harder to provide ubiquitous broadband. Visitors to locations that are off the beaten track find that reliable Internet connections are not readily available. This can be a major inconvenience to tourists who are used to being connected 24/7, and can be a stumbling block to economic growth in these areas.

Dr Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, a satellite Internet provider, explains that many of South Africa’s game lodges are located in isolated areas, where rough terrain and physical isolation make deployment of fixed-line telecoms and Internet infrastructure too onerous and expensive. “Game lodges that are able to offer their visitors fast and reliable connectivity will set themselves apart from their competitors, as they will be able to host corporate events such as conferences, which rely heavily on connectivity.”

He says this is why Q-KON was asked on short notice to provide a satellite communication service from a remote game reserve to content studios in Johannesburg. The satellite link was required to broadcast a live video feed of conference proceedings, for distribution via a Web cast.

The video-over-IP uplink solution was implemented from a communication mobile unit, equipped with a satellite antenna and a modem terminal, over satellite to the landing station in Johannesburg. From there it was transmitted onwards to the studios via terrestrial fibre. To meet the high definition quality requirements of this specific application, provision was made to provide an uplink service of 10Mbps using Ku-band satellite services.

“Satellite communication networks provide ‘anywhere, always on’ connectivity, which readily enables deployment of satellite communication links. For this reason, satellite services are an ideal way to provide ad-hoc on-demand services for IP broadcast applications from remote locations such as game lodges. For this particular requirement for HD video, a high capacity 10Mbps uplink services was needed, which is significantly more than the typical 1Mbps or 2Mbps services that are normally used,” de Wet says.

In order to provide a reliable 10Mbps service, the Q-KON team had to ensure the mobile unit is powerful enough while still being practical for remote deployments, explains de Wet. “In addition, implementation of the link also required on-demand provisioning of space segment services and activation of the communication channel.”

He adds that for this specific project, Q-KON upgraded the transmitter power and arranged for on-demand space segment services. “This enabled us to provide the client with high capacity services while minimising costs.”

In addition to the satellite uplink service, the solution also included high-volume Wi-Fi access. This was optimised for access to a large number of simultaneous users typically present at conferences and public events. The Wi-Fi service provided broadband access, which was also implemented using the high capacity satellite communication channel.

“The need for broadband access and IP connectivity at conferences, music festivals and other public events is becoming more and more a necessity for organisers, participants and visitors,” says de Wet.

For two reasons, he says current 3G services cannot provide trusted broadband or IP connections to these events. Either because the event locations are in remote areas with limited 3G signal coverage, or the events are in good coverage areas, but the networks become congested due to the high number of public users.

“This means that service providers that need reliable broadband services or need IP connectivity for video broadcast services need alternatives such as satellite mobile services. With the Q-KON solution capable of providing uplinks of up to 10Mbps at very cost effective rates, this is becoming a real alternative for event organisers.”

Why satellite is ideal for African connectivity
2016-11-03

Africa is known for its rugged beauty and diverse natural environments. The continent has also seen some of the highest economic growth in the world over the past few years.

Africa is known for its rugged beauty and diverse natural environments. The continent has also seen some of the highest economic growth in the world over the past few years.

This has been despite a lack of existing infrastructure and is largely due to the low base Africa has been growing from, explains Dr Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, a specialist provider of satellite connectivity solutions. “Africa has enjoyed a steady growth rate upwards of 3% since 2008, with many international organisations investing in the continent. As a result of its unique history, Africa remains largely rural and focused on minerals and mining, and it has only been the past few years that have seen governments across the continent focusing on other industries. However, while the Chinese have been building schools and roads, many areas are still unreachable by traditional fixed-line Internet.”

This is why satellite connectivity is filling the gap, and is become a widely used connectivity medium. The very nature of satellite technologies is almost perfectly aligned with the needs of the African market, de Wet says, much more so than any other available infrastructure solution.

“Satellite provides national, regional and even continental signal coverage and enables services to all users and market sectors, regardless of location. Satellite networks provide a direct link from the user to the Internet or core data network. There are no signal repeater stations, no need for backhaul links, no tower infrastructure, and no demand for reliable power to keep the backhaul links operational,” he explains.

In addition, the technology makes rapid deployment simple, at a low cost. “Satellite networks only require two points of investment: one is to build the core network or hub and is typically located at the service provider’s facilities and the second to supply and install the user terminal. There is no need for cost intensive microwave or transmission networks.”

According to de Wet, the new technology innovations and developments that enabled the latest High Throughput Satellite (HTS) networks will also drive changes in cost models. These changes will bring lower cost services and lower equipment costs.

“New HTS services have different cost metrics, which directly lower the cost per Mbps for satellite communication channel links. A cost reduction of more than 50% is expected, leading to delivery of broadband services comparable with current 3G services. In addition, because HTS networks are developed for large scale network deployments with expected user neighborhoods of 100 000 terminals and more, this will drive cost reduction in equipment manufacturing, leading to reduced user terminal costs.”

He adds that the higher demand for the technology will change the way the industry operates too. “The new HTS technology will require higher start-up investment and much more aggressive brand and marketing campaigns. This will lead to larger service providers entering the sector, bringing more economies of scale and cost benefits to the user.”

Satellite services meet very specific needs in the market, and even at a user base of hundreds of thousands, these networks are still much smaller than the millions of users typical of GSM networks. Users therefore need specialist service providers to ensure they get the most out of the technology.

“Meeting quality-of-service demands, network uptime criteria, and application SLA levels requires a sound and proper understanding of satellite technologies. This includes advantages, limitations and risks. Specialist providers like Q-KON have the engineering teams with the skills and experience to deal with the small day-to-day challenges of a niche technology network,” de Wet says.

“For every user, a satellite terminal must be supplied, delivered, installed and commissioned. For a network of hundreds of thousands of terminals, this requires very strong project management and implementation delivery resources and experience. Successful satellite service providers have the capability to successfully execute site roll-out programs in multiple countries and in all environments.”

He adds that end user satisfaction is directly dependent on the quality of the service. For broadband services, this is absolutely critical to ensure that user-cost vs service-performance is optimised. “Only service providers like Q-KON, who specialise in satellite networks, fully understand the metrics and constraints of providing the optimum user quality of service experience,” de Wet concludes.

What the loss of Falcon 9 and Amos 6 mean for African connectivity
2016-10-05

On September 1, 2016, international space exploration company SpaceX suffered a failure during the static test fire of the Falcon 9 rocket. Designed to transport satellites, Falcon 9 was scheduled to haul the AMOS-6 satellite into geostationary orbit. The rocket suffered an unspecified failure in the second stage's LOX tank during the test, and both rocket and satellite were destroyed.

On September 1, 2016, international space exploration company SpaceX suffered a failure during the static test fire of the Falcon 9 rocket. Designed to transport satellites, Falcon 9 was scheduled to haul the AMOS-6 satellite into geostationary orbit. The rocket suffered an unspecified failure in the second stage's LOX tank during the test, and both rocket and satellite were destroyed.

It takes pioneers and brave entrepreneurs to open new markets, to push new limits and reach new frontiers. These individuals are responsible for innovations that change the world for the better and offer long term benefits to humanity. Dave Pollock, CEO of Spacecom, and Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, are two examples, and must be commended for their visionary work and steadfast execution.

Today’s hyper-connected world has ignited the satellite industry, which is changing and adapting to meet the ever increasing demand for connectivity which will exceed the collective capabilities of fibre, satellite, Wi-Fi and all other technologies. Current satellite technology is already capable of delivering impressive 100GBps payloads through high-throughput satellite (HTS) services, and many operators are invested in bringing satellite connectivity to the public.

Different space operators are following different architectures. Spacecom designed the Amos 6 satellite specifically to empower Africa with broadband connectivity. The value of this strategy was quickly realised by Facebook who has secured dominant access to this satellite in order to further Facebook’s drive to close the digital divide.

Now with the loss of Amos 6, all industry parties will have to reconsider and reposition. Replacing satellites is a not quick job and takes typically three to five years, subject to any other plans that can be leveraged and repurposed. Amos 6 included a particularly strong focus on South Africa and had the potential to deliver broadband at an impressive R0,05c/MB (current LTE services are typically 18c/MB). That’s satellite connectivity at 30% of LTE pricing. It is possible and it will be a reality in the near future.

However, the effective delivery and successful market development of such inexpensive satellite connectivity services will require more than the most advanced satellite technologies. It will require the collective understanding and support by all role players including regulators, service providers, distributors and end-users. It will require service providers experienced in taking niche technologies to the market, who can provide on-site customer support and service delivery for large-scale deployments.

In the short term, the loss of Amos 6 leaves a very really gap in the market and will definitely result in some delay in the market growth for broadband satellite services. Without Amos 6, the market demand will have to be serviced from the current spectrum of available satellites and those planned for deployment in the near future. However, none of the current or upcoming satellite can really step into the gap and execute on the vision of Dave Pollack. It will take some time for the industry to fill this gap.

The good news is that Africa is innovative and Africa has tenacity. I have no doubt that collectively as an industry we will work harder toward meeting market and technology demands and use the time to improve service delivery capabilities on all fronts. For Q-KON as a leading niche telecoms service provider, this means we will further extend the performance of our current services and drive the envelope to the max.

In future, HTS services will undoubtedly shift the horizon for connectivity services. HTS services have real potential to meet the promise of “anywhere, anytime connectivity” and will change our perspective on what can be done, and at what possible costs. HTs will do for IP what DStv did for broadcast.

WhichVoIP launches VOIP phone comparison, with headline sponsor Q-KON SA and AudioCodes
2016-07-01

Increased competition in a rapidly evolving industry, together with the availability of information on the public Internet, has influenced how consumers engage and interact with telecoms technology and the vendor community. By leveraging the Internet, customers are now able to become self-educated and make an informed decision on which product, and through which channel, they are able to acquire their chosen VOIP technology.

Increased competition in a rapidly evolving industry, together with the availability of information on the public Internet, has influenced how consumers engage and interact with telecoms technology and the vendor community. By leveraging the Internet, customers are now able to become self-educated and make an informed decision on which product, and through which channel, they are able to acquire their chosen VOIP technology.

Mitchell Barker, Founder and CEO of WhichVoIP in South Africa, the leading online telecommunications news, information and comparison Web site, today announced the launch of its VOIP phone comparison portal, introducing a new way for prospective users of voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services to compare and evaluate VOIP devices from many manufacturers and make an educated decision on VOIP devices for their business requirements.

"We've seen explosive growth in the sale of IP devices given the maturing telephony market and the drive towards next-generation voice networks, forecast to service 5.72 million extension users by 2020. However, as with any growing industry, customers are served a flurry of options and place their trust in their chosen provider to offer devices which are the most befitting for their business requirements. But, who understands the customers' business better than the customer themselves?" he asks.

"In a market where the majority of VOIP services are based on open standards and allow for interoperability between vendors, we believe that customers should be given the tools to make their own choice of which handset to use, and all VOIP phone vendors should be given an equal opportunity to showcase their offering – this is where WhichVoIP comes in," Barker says.

Headline sponsor of the VOIP phone section Q-KON South Africa, a leading telecoms distributor in Africa, Tjaart de Wet, concurs: "As the market moves away from legacy technology, customers now have options – regardless of the underlying technology platform, and products such as AudioCodes provide a unique opportunity for customers to plug in our products which are certified to interoperate with leading vendors such as Microsoft, Asterisk, Avaya, Interactive Intelligence, Broadsoft, Genesys and PortaOne.

"There is more to a desktop device than just dial-tone. Customers who want to safeguard their investment and get the most from their telephony solution need to hear the full story, and that is why we are delighted to be part of this initiative given the longstanding service that WhichVoIP has served the the telecoms industry over the past few years. We stand behind our products and believe that with better products, there is the opportunity for leaner competition, and we feel that WhichVoIP is firmly established in the market to provide customers an easy-to-use comparison service so that customers know what they are buying, before they buy it." he says.

"We've given customers the freedom that they should have had all along, allowing them to choose their own device instead of being told what to use by their provider. In a market which is highly competitive, and each vendor claims that their phones are better than the next, it can get confusing for customers – how about we just let the product speak for itself. It's actually the business model we've wanted all along," concludes Barker.

To kick off the initiative, Q-KON SA surveyed a number of consumers and telecoms partners to establish the market position of VOIP devices, and would like to congratulate Evan Damon from Wanatel as the winner of the lucky draw.

The new comparison tables are available at http://www.whichvoip.co.za/comparison/voip_phone and available to all registered users at no charge.

VSAT as Packet Data Communications Medium For IoT And Specifically Industrial IoT (I2oT)
2016-06-04

Internet of Things has been a topic in many forums for the past few years. Trying to understand exactly what IoT entails might be an overwhelming task. Is IoT home automation, M2M, SCADA, Telemetry, Smart Cities, Connected Cars, or even as some have coined it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution? It is probably all of the above. The fact is, the sooner we understand the applications and embrace the possibilities it has to offer, the better.

The World Economic forum, in collaboration with key industry roleplayers, has compiled an interesting report "Intelligent Assets Unlocking the Circular Economy", which should be a must-read for all those interested in IoT. The key message in this report is summarized as follows:

Instead of the linear "take - make - dispose" model, the dominant economic model of our time, we should harness the technology and apply the following principles:

  • Preserve and enhance natural capital by controlling finite stocks and balancing renewable resource flows
  • Optimize resource yields by circulating products, components and materials in use at the highest utility at all times, in both technical and biological cycles
  • Foster system effectiveness by revealing and designing out negative externalities

This is mainly achieved through the following basic benefits of IoT.

  • Knowledge of the location of the asset
  • Knowledge of the condition of the asset
  • Knowledge of the availability of the asset


Coming from an Industrial Data Communications background where purpose-made, complex and expensive SCADA and Telemetry systems were used to monitor and control devices, it is refreshing to see that the IoT hype will make monitoring and controlling things within the reach of everyone. Sensors collecting raw data, computing devices to interpret the raw data, and cloud-based platforms to visualise data, are becoming extremely affordable. As an example, the internet is riddled with instructions and videos enabling children and techies programming Ardinuo's and Raspberry PI's to do useful things.

IoT does, however, come with its own complexities. Security is most certainly a crucial factor and also, as always, is having reliable data communication. Monitoring and controlling high value assets is in most instances not in locations where data communication is available, and if so, reliable. GSM networks are probably seen as the de facto communications medium for packet data , but should certainly not be seen as the only option.

With the new era of satellite connectivity in the form of High Throughput Satellites (HTS) fast becoming a reality, coupled with a reduction in bandwidth costs on legacy C- and Ku band satellites, satellite connectivity is perfect for low-volume packet-data communication. Some satellite OEM's have created terminals specifically for IoT applications. It is projected that by 2024, 5.3 million VSAT terminals will be used for IoT applications.

At a recent technology seminar hosted by a major banking group, Q-KON CEO, Dr Dawie de Wet, explained how VSAT communication is competitive compared to other communications mediums such as ADSL, 3G and Fibre, specifically in the sub 10Gb per month usage space. Simple maths calculated VSAT services to be at the R0,08c / Mb price point. Sure, the upfront CAPEX required for the terminal equipment is more expensive than a 3G modem, however it is anywhere, always on, constant / predictable and secure communication. Paying sub R10 000 for a VSAT terminal, and a few hundred rand for data to monitor a mission critical asset such a R800 000 generator delivering power to a plant at a remote location, makes the business case feasible. Typical data required to monitor a generator 24/7 amounts to between 10 - 20 Mb.

VSAT is by nature also the perfect point-to-multipoint broadcast medium, and hence ideal for the perpetual software updates required by connected devices. Follow-up articles will zoom in on how the satellite industry has changed over the past few years and what is becoming a reality. The key message here is - when designing a data communications network for IoT applications, do not discard satellite as a communications medium.