Connectivity is an essential ingredient to a healthy, safe and productive life. But there is a notable deficit across rural areas of the world that is blocking a large proportion of society from the benefits a connected life has to offer. In fact, there are 3.7 billion people globally currently living without an internet connection.
We know that demand for data outstrips supply, leaving many excluded. This is even more exaggerated in places such as sub-Saharan Africa where the population is growing 2.7% per year. With nearly 30% of Africa’s rural population still living without any mobile broadband coverage, ultra-rural expansion is desperately needed.
There is an appetite for change, yet deploying rural connectivity remains particularly challenging across rural Africa due to a lack of infrastructure and the extremely high costs associated. Mobile Network Operators and Tower Companies simply do not have the capacity to combat Africa’s coverage gap alone. Partnership is paramount.
Africa’s coverage challenge calls for collective action
There is a basic economic challenge inhibiting the roll out of coverage in rural areas. Deploying infrastructure in remote areas can be twice as expensive, while revenue opportunities for MNOs and Tower Companies can be up to ten times lower. This combination of these financial barriers deeply impacts the business case for deploying infrastructure in rural areas.
Addressing this digital divide requires collective action and, as the number one high throughput satellite company in Africa, Avanti is working hard to identify sustainable and economically viable partnerships that will help to address some of the key barriers preventing access to connectivity across the continent.
Over the past year, Avanti has launched several new partnerships to help Mobile Network Operators and other partners expand their networks and accelerate the rollout of low-cost connectivity solutions in some of the hardest-to-reach areas across sub-Saharan Africa. For example, we recently joined forces with the Smart Off-Grid company Clear Blue Technologies to forge a lifechanging partnership that is expected to deliver reliable cellular coverage to an extra 200 million people currently living in sub-Saharan Africa, within the next 3 to 5 years.
In May, we also announced a five-year partnership agreement with Free in Senegal. The partnership will extend the coverage of Avanti’s state-of-the-art HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellite to Senegal and the neighbouring West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Gambia and Liberia, as well as completing Avanti’s coverage of Ivory Coast.
Through such partnerships, we have been able to harness satellite technology to create better access to education, medicine and help provide a safer environment for people to live and work. For example, this major milestone with Free in Senegal is set to significantly increase access to high-speed satellite internet for the countries’ schools, which will have a colossal impact on education by enabling e-learning services across the region.
Helping industry partners to accelerate progress
The success of such partnerships has resulted in Avanti launching its own service, Avanti EXTEND, a managed service for rural connectivity to support partners in their efforts to connect rural Africa. For the industry to remain on this upward trajectory, we must continue to seek out opportunities that address the barriers prohibiting MNOs and other partners from serving rural communities.
Avanti EXTEND provides high-performance and cost-effective 2G, 3G and 4G solutions to remote and hard-to-reach areas across sub-Saharan Africa. It enables MNOs and other partners to provide reliable cellular service to the 100 million people living in these challenging locations that would otherwise be impossible to reach using traditional terrestrial infrastructure.
Avanti EXTEND has a built-in and fully operational CAPEX solution that integrates seamlessly into MNOs terrestrial networks to reduce network complexity and increase efficiency. This offers the opportunity for partners to undertake large deployments quickly and effectively, and scale operations to support long-term rural expansion at no additional CAPEX. It removes the need for them to manage satellite configurations, hub infrastructure or terrestrial networks to deploy a successful satellite cellular backhaul topology.
The industry has a key role to play in developing new technologies that will help to accelerate a faster, more reliable service, that will benefit millions of people – particularly if we are to keep up with the evolving digital landscape.
The future is now
In a post-pandemic world, where the reliance on connectivity is at the forefront, the unconnected are becoming even further removed from the modern digital world. We are incredibly proud of the part we have played in changing this reality, but we can’t stop here.
We must continue to work together, to leverage strategic partnerships and seek out opportunities that will enable all areas of society to benefit from a life that connectivity can offer. Connectivity is not a gift; it is a part of the human experience that everyone is entitled to – so let’s make that a global reality.