Broadband internet access for rural Africa: finding a viable model
Hoffman, Alwyn J.
De Wet, Dawid P.
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While cellular communications have grown exponentially in Africa over the last 10 years, many parts of rural Africa still lack access to broadband Internet services. The question is posed whether this market can be serviced on a financially viable basis using existing broadband technology. To answer this question and determine how this can be done most effectively require an indepth understanding of the interplay between market, product, technology and financial issues. This paper describes an interlinked model that allows simulation of the relationships between the critical set of market, product, technology and financial variables impacting of the delivery of broadband service to rural Africa. It motivates the use of satellite communications as the most suitable alternative for this market, and continues to identify and compare the available satellite platforms that can be used as basis for broadband access to rural areas. Based on current communication costs and available data rates, as well as typical needs from Internet users, a satellite based broadband service offering is defined that would be cost-effective within the African context. It is then shown that an innovative billing model would be critical to the successful launching of such a service, as has been the case with cellular telephony service offerings in Africa. The paper concludes by presenting a business case for the deployment of satellite based broadband services in order to assist rural Africa in becoming part of the mainstream global economy