Info Blog

The Important Role Reliable Connectivity Plays in the Profits of the Fast Food Industry

This recent case study attempt to explain the important role reliable connectivity plays in the profits of the Fast Food Industry and is based on true solutions specifically designed for completed KFC projects, in partnership with Q-KON Africa and FNB.


Kentucky Fried Chicken was founded by Harland Sanders (known as Colonel Sanders), who opened his first restaurant in 1952. Kentucky Fried Chicken was later changed to KFC to create a healthier image to consumers, but irrespective of their efforts to develop a health-conscious brand, the most popular dish today still remains their famous original recipe fried chicken.

To put their success in perspective: In 2017, KFC held 21 487 restaurants worldwide. In South Africa alone, KFC still ranks 1st on the fast food industry list, with 840 stores nationwide. Despite the tough economic environment over the past year, KFC still continued to open more stores to supply the demand of South Africa’s favourite meal.

The Challenge

Part of KFC’s continued growth drive is to implement effective business processes which also serve its customers as best as possible. A key element of this is to ensure fast and trusted check-out transactions, and to do this they need to ensure trusted communication for the point-of-sale infrastructure. 

Using the normal mobile networks with 3G data connectivity could simply not provide KFC with reliable communication for the point-of-sale services. The poor 3G communication was leading to revenue loss and customer frustrations, which simply could not be afforded anymore.

The Solution

FNB recently partnered with Q-KON to develop a very reliable satellite communication network that provided trusted communication for business point-of-sale solutions. This satellite network provides a network reliability of 99,95% uptime, with data transaction costs lower than 3G bundles and equipment pricing included in the FNB financial services package. 

The solution is implemented by installing a two-way data satellite terminal at the customer’s premises. This integrates with the business point-of-sale devices either with cable or over a secure wireless network. This solution can thus also be used for communication at larger business premises, which could include restaurant areas, or bar facilities and even outside pool areas.

As an FNB certified solution, the end-to-end satellite and wireless network is fully compliant with all current financial security requirements. In addition, Q-KON provides FNB with on-site and remote support to ensure continued business operation anywhere in South Africa. 


Q-KON has so far successfully completed 16 KFC VSAT projects, consisting of eight Stimulus sites, two Gunret Food sites and 6 KFC Chargo sites.

These sites, famous for their “off-grid” nature, can now benefit from the satellite PoS solution. “We really can’t complain, as we have seen a tremendous improvement in the uptime at these stores, in comparison of how it was. The support from the Q-KON team is excellent!” says Michael Davel of Gunret Foods.

A Review of Available Off-grid Telco Service Options - a User Outline to Select the Most Suitable Options

Selecting the ideal telecommunication services for your business, for broadband Internet access and for voice and video services, is a simple choice when you are in town or any area connected with fibre networks. If, however, you are in an off-grid location, it is not so simple.

Selecting the ideal telecommunication services for your business, for broadband Internet access and for voice and video services, is a simple choice when you are in town or any area connected with fibre networks. Fibre will then be your de facto option. All you have to do is select your service provider and service bundles, which are commercial considerations and not a technology selection.

If, however, you are in an off-grid location, it is not so simple. “Off-grid” locations are any business or residential address that is not connected with the national telecommunication fibre or cable grid provided by Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C or any of the network providers. For “off-grid” users, the choices are using 3G data bundles (if you have sufficient mobile coverage), using a point-to-point radio service from your local ISP in town, or using satellite data services.

This review aims to provide some context and understanding of the different advantages and benefits of the primary “off-grid” service options ie. 3G, radio or satellite, and aims to help users in building a reference of the market and to understand the fundamental differences between the respective technologies. Once users understand the technology principles, they will be better equipped to consider commercial offers and trade-offs for their specific requirements.

Service Cost

Service price is probably the first consideration for all users and the general perception is that satellite is the expensive option. It is very interesting that the next generation HTS services coming on line will provide 30GB bundles at less than R1500 per month, making satellite very much at par with 3G services. Radio point-to-point links can offer the lowest cost per GB volume option, depending how the specific radio network is developed in your area.

Access Speed

Our view is that access speed is only important if it is not good enough. If end-users can readily access email, watch videos and do business, then the nominal speed is not of much value. Understandably, users in off-grid locations can’t yet readily access Netflix and the on-line entertainment users in the cities are getting used to. 

From this perspective, radio is the stronger option with link speeds of 10Mbps and more, followed by satellite with speeds at 5Mbps. Mobile 3G is very much a “best-effort” service and link speeds in remote areas will certainly be compromised and not offer a great advantage.

Equipment and Implementation Cost

3G data services only requires a dongle or small router and offer the minimum equipment cost and basically no installation cost. The issue is more around whether there is coverage at your location and specifically at your point of work.  For a radio service, you will need a wireless terminal installation at your premises, plus perhaps a mast structure to get the required wireless line-of-sight. In a worst-case scenario, you will need a repeater or extra network points.

To install your satellite service, you just need a small DStv-type of terminal installation, no mast structures and no dependency on any tower or repeater network infrastructure. Some of the next generation satellite terminals will even be “self-installed” so your local handy man or electrician contractor will be able to do this installation for you.

Service Coverage

Service coverage can be a go/no-go decision criterion and is very high on the list of considerations for any user. Satellite services are not “terrain dependant” and are available everywhere in the target market. Satellite is also not time-of-day or weather dependant and is an assured signal coverage option.

Mobile 3G services are not predictable and users will need to confirm signal coverage and signal levels where services are required.  Radio service coverage is dependant on the local wireless networks and can be very good or highly problematic – it all depends on the specific radio network in your area. As a minimum, it will include a network of repeater stations and tower infrastructure with the associated service and security risks.


Of all the services, satellite is the most reliable and dependable option. It has guaranteed network uptime, it is not dependant on any local network infrastructure and is only dependant on the user terminal at the user premises. It is for these solid reasons that all banks use satellite services for ATM connections.

Radio services are less reliable due to the dependency on the local network elements, and 3G services are again a best effort service.   


For users that are not connected with the main telecommunication networks and who are at “off-grid” locations, the most common options are a radio service from local wireless ISP, or a 3G service, or a broadband satellite service.

The satellite service option is the most reliable option, with lower equipment and installation cost than the radio option and lower cost than 3G data bundles. Satellite has come a very long way from being the “too expensive” option and will increasingly become the trusted and reliable option – specifically for off-grid business users.

New Technolgies Expanding Satellite Markets

Satellite has proved its worth as a connectivity medium in areas where there is no fixed line infrastructure. While it has remained a niche solution as a result of the logistics involved in the installation and management of the dishes, new technology is promising to bring satellite connectivity to new markets that have not been able to use satellite links before.

Satellite has proved its worth as a connectivity medium in areas where there is no fixed line infrastructure. While it has remained a niche solution as a result of the logistics involved in the installation and management of the dishes, new technology is promising to bring satellite connectivity to new markets that have not been able to use satellite links before.


Kymeta, a company created to address the need for lightweight, slim and efficient communication systems that do not require mechanical components to steer toward a satellite, has created new antenna technology. These antennas use metamaterials technology to dynamically steer the beam towards the satellite with no moving parts, resulting in flat, thinner, lighter, more efficient and less expensive antennas.


In comparison, traditional satellite dishes are heavy, large, consume a lot of power, cost a lot and have mechanical gimbals for steering. Phased array antennas are very expensive, require cooling, often cannot transmit and receive on a single aperture, consume an extraordinary amount of power and still often require mechanical steering.


Kymeta’s antennas are portable, featuring high speed internet connectivity and a built-in WiFi hotspot. They are able to be updated remotely, and even boast built-in Azure capability. They use software to electronically point and steer toward a satellite, allowing the terminals to auto-commission and auto-provision, enabling rapid setup and installation.


According to Kymeta’s Håkan Olsson, this is the first satellite antenna that has been designed for mass production, and its features are some of the reasons that the company is introducing the benefits of satellite connectivity across a range of sectors that have not used satellite links before. The technology is currently being used on trains, buses, boats and automobiles, construction sites, first responders and agriculture, he told delegates at the recent launch of the technology in South Africa.


“Satellites provide a global network of available high-throughput bandwidth. Until now there hasn’t been a way to easily access it, except to a limited extent. Kymeta’s satellite technology and services make it easy to bring global access, anywhere, anytime, while on the move,” he said.


Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, says that with the growing broadband demand, the increasing install base of Internet of Things (IoT), added to the growing corporate bandwidth requirements across Africa, satellite connectivity is becoming more popular in sectors such as financial and business services.


Advanced antenna technologies such as the Kymeta antennas will now also lead development of the specialist mobile and aviation markets.  The global aviation travel industry, cruise liners and luxury yachts are all markets that has a strong demand for broadband services and will benefit greatly from the new Kymeta antenna.

Do You Need a Managed or Broadband Service? What to Consider and Where the Difference Lie

When end-users consider options to contract for data and voice communication services, the industry sometimes complicates these discussions by using different terminology and abbreviations. Although the intent of all proposals is probably to explain the offer and its advantages, it could have the opposite effect and confuse the topic.

This discussion considers the definition of a “managed service” vs the definition of a “broadband service”. This is one possible area that can create confusion.  Even the trusted Wikipedia does not volunteer a clear definition of the terms “managed service” and “broadband service” as applicable to data or Internet communication services. 

The 5 differences listed here are just one possible analysis, and there could be different views and perspectives on these service definitions. To complicate matters further, the term “broadband Internet” is also used to define “high speed Internet”. For the purpose of this discussion, we are referring to all data networks and not just Internet access networks.

The following 5 areas will help to build an understanding of the two types of data communication services:

#1. How you select your service

The requirements of a Managed Service are mostly discussed during one-on-one meetings between the network engineers and architects of the service provider and the end-user teams. The purpose of these meetings is to define the best solution for the user’s needs and often to create a customised network solution. For a Broadband Service, there is no opportunity for customisation and the end-user selects a standard service from a list of available options.

#2 Network Integration

Any communication network is only one segment of a bigger solution, such as an ATM network for a bank or a point-of-sale solution for a retail merchant. In the case of the customised Managed Service, there is close collaboration to ensure seamless end-to-end operation of the communication and application networks. For Broadband Services, the integration into the end-to-end solution is either not required, as is the case with normal Internet services, or it is done by the end-user team.

#3 Service Levels

Operating service levels such as data usage, data rates and network bandwidth pools for Managed Services will be specifically defined, costed and implemented to meet the end-user criteria and requirements. For Broadband Services, the user service must be selected from an available list of options.

#4 Support and Repair

The support and repair levels are the key differentiators between Managed Services and Broadband ServicesManaged Services are provided with strict SLAs which define uptime, time-to-repair etc. with proactive service monitoring and monthly service delivery reports.  Broadband Services, on the other hand, are provided with no agreed uptime or equipment time-to-repair specifications.

#5 User Group

Managed Service are mostly used by business-critical applications such as for connectivity to ATMs, point-of-sale devices or industrial control applications. Broadband Services are priced better for individual and non-business critical applications.


The first order classification of Managed Services is services for bespoke network solutions with specific customised service definitions and enforceable service level agreements (SLAs). Broadband Services are best-effort services which offer off-the-shelf selections with general service levels and no option for customisation.

As an experienced “off-grid” solutions and services provider, Q-KON has the resources to offer highly specialised Managed Services as well as options for Broadband Services. Understanding the different dynamics and being able to operate in complex end-to-end user environments such as the financial services sector, while also being able to offer options for non-business critical applications, is key to our success in providing leading satellite access services.

Why Banks are using Satellite Services

Satellite connectivity is commonly considered a last mile solution only for areas where there is little or no coverage of other networks such as fibre or 3G. However, its high reliability and ubiquitous coverage have resulted in the banking sector using satellite communication networks to ensure that ATM service points and Point of Sale (PoS) devices are always connected.

ATMs and PoS devices require reliable connectivity in order to transmit data from their location to a server, and from the server back to their location. Reliable connectivity is therefore essential, as any drops in communication could result in revenue loss, increased operational cost and reduced customer satisfaction.


In the case of ATMs, poor connectivity could result in customer loss or worst, brand damage. In the case of a PoS device, poor connectivity could result in the customer being unable to complete a transaction or merchants being unable to trade. Given the negative impact poor communication has on point-of-sale services leading banks are taking the initiative to provide reliable communication as part of the financial services.


This is why one of South Africa’s largest banks uses satellite connectivity as very high availability back-up, for trusted ATM and point-of-sale or as a failsafe for disaster recovery connectivity, says Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON. “For banking and finance industries, connectivity is more important than it has ever been, with secure and reliable connectivity being critical. Communications need to be assured not just for ATMs and PoS transactions, but also between the institution’s headquarters, data centres and branches. There is a constant demand for more sites and more bandwidth to support the operational data and financial transactions in these networks.”


He adds that innovations such as mobile payments and mobile banking are shifting the focus from traditional networks towards connectivity-based applications, especially in emerging markets. “Primary or back-up satellite connectivity easily blends into existing IT networks and the applicable connectivity mix.  Integrated with terrestrial networks, satellite access services can enable 99.95% availability.”


As well as addressing a fixed location, a satellite solution can easily be deployed in a transportable configuration, where it can serve the connectivity needs for transactions during events, de Wet says. “Satellite access services require the minimum onsite infrastructure and don’t require any long-distance terrestrial plant infrastructure, enabling the swift deployment of services for events.”


In addition, satellite services are extremely cost effective. According to de Wet, applied within the correct business model and leveraging the unique advantages of the satellite architecture, IP access services can be provided at extremely attractive cost levels. “The flexible costing and business models of satellite access networks are some of the reasons why more and more banking and financial organisations select satellite networks to complement and expand existing terrestrial communication networks.”

Internet of Things - The Opportunity of Satellite in IoT

By 2023 the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be 17,4 billion devices and it is expected that 10% of all locations will be 'off-grid' , i.e. not connected to the national Telco or Mobile networks. IoT will become part of life and will certainly change the way we work, play and live. With all applications and business solutions depending on reliable and affordable communication, this means a total of 1,7billion devices will be 'off-grid' and will depend on either satellite or wireless networks to operate. Is there an opportunity for satellite in IoT? 1,7billion devices is a certain YES!

When will Fibre replace Satellite? A perspective on the need for satellite networks for Africa

The ever-increasing growth in terrestrial fibre networks, both international submarine cables as well as national and metropolitan networks, has created an expectation that fibre networks and fibre connectivity will soon be the default option for broadband and IP access services in South Africa and Africa.

International Capacity
Indeed, when considering that Africa has reached almost 6Tbps of international access bandwidth at the start of 2017, which is close to a 30% increase from the 4,5Tbps in 2015 the growth is indeed exponential. (Refer Hamilton Research, Africa Telecom Transmission Map) From this perspective it is understandable that fibre networks are becoming the preferred technology to provide primary international trunk services in a point-to-point service delivery configuration.

Terrestrial Fibre Network Growth
The latest Africa Telecom Transmission Map shows provides a view on the strong growth of terrestrial fibre networks exceeding 1 million route-kms in 2015. In 2014 it was 958,901-km and in 2013 it was 905,259-km indicating a strong year on year growth that is expected to continue in the near future. It is estimated that about one-fifth of this network is in cities connecting business and residential consumers at speeds up to 100Mbps..

Population Reach
In 2015 the Africa fibre network expansions has brought more than 176 million people access to high capacity services. In June 2015, 45.8% of the population was within 25-km range, and 341.0 million people were beyond the reach of terrestrial fibre node.n

South Africa Scenario
Putting the reach of the Africa terrestrial nfibre networks in context, the situation for the wider Gauteng is provided by a composite map, compliments of Otel. This shows the positive growth of fibre networks as well as showing the fast-open areas not connected.
While it can be expected that the networks will grow it should be remembered that fibre a fibre network investment must be recovered from the subscribers in a particular area.

This will drive the requirement that fibre networks can only be deployed for residential and business areas where the demand and subscriber uptake will balance the network investment.

So why Satellite networks?
With only 48% of the Africa population now serviced it leaves more than half of the population without any connectivity. Adding to this that the fibre business case requires high subscriber densities it can be expected that as much as a 30% of Africa population will be outside the feasible reach of fibre networks.
Withing this context it is clear why the satellite industry has continued to develop and grow in order to be an alternative connectivity medium. It is expected that fibre will always be the preferred option, it will just not be always and everywhere available.

As a specialist "off-grid"solutions and services Telco, Q-KON focus on developing and servicing government, business and consumers who are "off-grid"and not within reach of the national terrestrial Telco networks. Together with world-leading international partners, we are developing these services which will continue to meet the performance and cost demands for this specialist market sector.
It is our view that the question is not "When will fibre replace satellite?", it is rather a matter of understanding the constraints and limitations of both technologies and enabling the market accordingly.

Choose right: Managed Access or Broadband Service

For most of us buying something you can't see or touch is difficult, and if the product description is further more filled with jargon and unclear definitions it is just so much more challenging. Here is a quick guide that can assist with buying Broadband or data connectivity services. Use the quick guide, or make an in-depth study, or simply choose the name in "off-grid" communications you can trust - the choice is yours.

Why Satellite is Needed for IoT

The Ericcson 2017 mobility report forecasts that by 2023 there will be over 30 billion connected devices, of which around 20 billion will be related to the IoT. Connected IoT devices include connected cars, machines, meters, sensors, point-of-sale terminals, consumer electronics and wearables. Between 2017 and 2023, connected IoT devices are expected to increase at a CAGR of 19%, driven by new use cases and affordability.

20 Billion Internet-of-things devices by 2023

… and why satellite connectivity will be needed.


The IoT market in perspective

According to the 2017 Growth Enabler market pulse report for IoT, IoT serves two distinct user groups: business and individuals. These two user-groups can then broadly be classified into nine segments as shown in the following diagram: 

Internet-of-Things Market Overview

Consumer Segment

Use-cases are 1) Connected homes 2) Wearables 3) Connected cars and 4) Personal health.

For consumers, the value proposition is to save time, money and heighten personal convenience.

Adoption is set to grow as machine sensors in smartphones, wearable devices and other smart devices become more prevalent and affordable

Business Segment

Use-cases are 5) Retail 6) Industrial 7) Smart Utilities & Energy 8) Healthcare 9) Smart Cities.

For business, the value proposition is reducing business continuity risk through predictive “sensor driven” analytics that optimise operational performance, reduce costs and consequently increase profits and customer impact.


Communication Network Perspective

The Ericcson communication analysis divides the IoT market into short-range and wide-area segments. The short-range segment largely consists of devices connected by unlicensed radio technologies, with a typical range of up to 100 meters, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. This category also includes devices connected over fixed-line local area networks and powerline technologies.


The wide-area segment consists of devices using cellular connections, as well as unlicensed low-power technologies, such as Sigfox and LoRa. At the end of 2017, an estimated 0.5 billion IoT devices were connected with cellular connections. This number is projected to reach 1.8 billion in 2023, or around 75% of the wide-area category.

By 2023 the short-range segment is expected to be 17,4 billion devices or 55% of the connected devices market. What is not made very clear in the Ericcson analysis is that part of short-range communication network architecture is a wide-area network circuit that connects the “on-site” short range network with the centralised cloud infrastructure. Each and every Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Zigbee network deployed on a user campus must also be integrated with a reliable backhaul link.



By 2023 1,8 billion IoT devices to be connected via Cellular.


1,7 billion devices on “off-grid” locations will be connected via satellite or wireless.

For any “off-grid” location, i.e. a location which is not connected to the national telco mobile or fixed line telecommunication grid, this backhaul connectivity must be provided by satellite or wireless alternative infrastructures.  Based on an estimate that 10% of locations will be “off-grid” this represents a need for alternative connectivity for 1,7 billion devices – almost the same as planned to mobile networks!




The Internet-of-things will certainly change the way we work, play and live. The user applications and business benefits will be developed to change our reality and the way we experience the world around us.


As can be expected, the fundamental requirement for this change to materialise is the need for reliable and scalable connectivity. With the wide footprint of cellular networks, and the dominance of 3G as a connectivity medium, Ericcson forecasted the 1,8 billion devices will be connected via cellular networks.


However, based on the total market forecast, it is expected that 1,7 billion devices will be operating from “off-grid” locations and will have to be connected using alternative networks such as satellite. It is thus expected that satellite and cellular networks will have equal share in the IoT connectivity sector.



What's Needed for Large-Scale Satellite Networks

Research undertaken by ITU into the online and offline population shows that four-fifths of the offline population are located in Asia-Pacific and in Africa. While absolute numbers of offline individuals at a regional level show that Asia-Pacific bears the lion's share, it is Africa that exhibits the greatest connectivity shortfall when examining the proportion of population that is not online. When grouping countries by their level of development, the greatest connectivity shortfall is exhibited in Least Developed Countries ("LDCs"), where 85% of the population is still offline set against only 22% in Developed Countries.

The offline population is disproportionately female, rural, poor, illiterate and elderly. Of the 3.9 billion people that are still unconnected, 58% are female, roughly 60% are rural and at least half come from countries with a GNI/capita of less than US$ (PPP) 6,500. In addition, many spend far in excess of 5% on ICT access and services as a proportion of GNI/ capita, the affordability threshold set by the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

The success of the mobile market and the rapid adoption of the smart phone is often listed as a reference and motivation as to why large-scale satellite networks can be successful in Africa – a “if they can do it, we can do it” type of thinking. With 3.9 billion people unconnected and 60% of these in rural areas, it is understandable that the leading satellite operators and manufacturers are focused on this as a target market. Various business studies and annual reports have provided the justification for the current development of LEO, MEO and GEO constellations, with the planned entry of a number of large-scale satellite broadband services to meet the demand.

Yes, it’s a technology fit

Satellite is indeed the perfect fit to meet this demand. It can be available anywhere and anytime, requires only a small fixed installation, and needs no complex and CAPEX-intensive terrestrial network infrastructure. Satellite networks are very reliable, can operate using solar power stations and are available on “pay-as-you-go” options. Satellite is proven and has been available in Africa for at least 10 years.

Recent technology developments in the satellite industry are further increasing performance and reducing costs, driving satellite access to cost points of similar and even below average 3G rates. With various Ka-band network operators, O3B low-orbit service, the planned OneWeb service, Global-IP and others, the technology-cost package is certainly a win offering for this market sector.

It’s not about technology

Q-KON is a system engineering organisation celebrating its 30th year of servicing Africa, and one of the most disillusioning aspects of operating in this environment was learning that technology and engineering are only enabling factors. As Professor Teta, a respected Q-KON customer once told me, “Let your son study business. He can always get engineers to work for him”.

For us, the reality of unlocking the African broadband market is exactly this, and it will require more than the most effective and lowest cost technology.

The success of the GSM market was built step-by-step the hard way: By every field team digging foundations for the tower structures, by every supplier and logistics partner delivering the most advanced equipment to the most remote locations, by every system engineer setting up advanced networks – often in harsh and hostile environments. 

All of this was possible through the vision and commitment of the shareholders who had the guts and conviction to spend big money on-the-ground in infrastructure and networks. Big money that cannot be relocated, cannot be repatriated, cannot be stopped. The GSM success story is one of a full, all-out commitment to a country, a region, a village. It is about putting your money where your mouth is in possibly the clearest and most tangible way we have in the current ICT industry.

An option for satellite service

With satellite technology now getting to a stage where it is possible to service 100,000 to 200,000 users per country, touching 1 million satellite users in Africa over a 5 year period, it might be time for the industry to consider the rest of the requirements. Developing advanced satellite platforms, with digital payloads, capable of delivering nx Gbps traffic is only step one.

These investments are “only” the enabling element. It is by no means the full spectrum of what is needed.

What is needed is to add the rest of the commitment to the business, to each country, each village. What is needed is to add the commitment to the market, commitment that is written in funding and executed on the ground in each village and each rural school area.  Investments in spacecraft and international teleports are not investing in Africa; they are “playing it safe” and don’t open new markets, don’t uplift societies, don’t generate revenue – these investments only demonstrate what is possible with advanced technology.


Q-KON World-First to Deploy iDirect Regional Node Solution for Critical Primary and Backup Communication Network in Swaziland

Solution being tailored to provide HUBless, low latency, in-country termination for a major financial customer.

Q-KON, a Specialist Service Provider and Systems Integrator, has successfully deployed a Satellite Regional Node Solution to provide critical primary and backup communication for a financial VSAT network in Swaziland. Q-KON partnered with VT iDirect, Inc. (iDirect), a member of Vision Technologies Systems, Inc. (VT Systems), for the installation – a world first.

Q-KON is a telecommunications system integrator and project house with almost 30 years’ experience in the financial sector in most African countries.  With a long history of communications networks in Swaziland, Q-KON was approached by a major bank in Swaziland to provide reliable primary and backup communication for their ATM’s and branches, both in-country and back to its International Headquarters located in South Africa.

The financial sector is one of the most rapidly evolving verticals in Africa. The drive to increase financial inclusion and expanding the customer base relies heavily on a high availability communication network not bounded by geographical constraints.  VSAT connectivity remains the ultimate “always on, anywhere” communication medium that can enable self-service banking at ATMs, online banking, reliable POS connectivity, retail banking and voice and telephony needs.

“Following an extensive evaluation for the right solution that could help us to provide reliable, low latency communication without the CAPEX required for a traditional HUB network, we chose the iDirect Regional Node Solution based on its innovative design and cost effectiveness, ideal for packet data communication,” says Dr. Dawie de Wet, CEO, Q-KON. “Going forward, we anticipate to be able to leverage this technology for many of our other customers in the financial sector across Africa.  This is also the ideal solution where banking regulation dictates in-country termination of financial transactions”.


Q-KON is a 1st tier provider of integrated access services, turn-key telecommunication solution provider and the distributor of numerous wireless products as well as the AudioCodes VoIP product ranges. For almost 30 years, Q-KON has followed successful strategies to establish advance technologies in challenging environments and to unlock real business.

Test case scenario of an EPIC satellite solution - New high capacity satellite solutions for the African market

Heroic or grand in scale or character: That is what the word EPIC means according to Google's dictionary. EPIC is also the product name for the recently launched Intelsat satellites which are all part of the latest technology developments in the satellite industry, referred to as high throughput satellites (HTS).

The aim of EPIC, and other high throughput satellites (HTS), is to aggressively drive an increase in possible speeds while at the same time reducing effective service cost.  Tests done by the Q-KON engineering team obtained 5x higher uplink speeds (12Mbps) than the previous generation satellites (1,5Mbps) at an expected cost reduction of 50%.  This is a possible overall improvement of almost 10x, quite impressive by any standards of today’s technology enhancements. 

The reason why the satellite industry is investing heavily in opening new technology frontiers is clear when considering that according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, Africa’s IP traffic will grow at a rate of 41% - the fastest annual rate in the world – by 2020.  Over the next five years, it is expected that an additional 168 million people will be connected by mobile services across Africa, reaching 725 million unique subscribers by 2020.  It is clear that Africa will require any and all types of connectivity that can practically be provided.

With the Intelsat EPIC satellites already in operation over Africa, the obvious question is when these benefits are going to impact on the market, and more particularly, which markets will be addressed by the EPIC and similar satellite services. To provide perspective to these questions we can briefly discuss some of the driving elements for this business case:

User terminal

Undoubtedly, one of the key advantages of the EPIC satellites is that users will be able to use existing ground terminals with no additional CAPEX requirements. Q-KON currently operates thousands of 1.2m satellite terminals and we used a standard user terminal in our EPIC performance tests. Being able to increase the uplink speed from 1.5Mbps to 12Mbps will not only be a big improvement for satellite Internet users, it will also open new service market options.

End-to-end specialist service

With the enabling technology now in place, the next step is to develop and launch the end-to-end service bundles and solution portfolios that can be used to open new market sectors. For example, EPIC will enable the effective deployment of “fibre-restoration” services using mobile trailer deployments, either on an ad-hoc basis or short term, to combat cable theft among other reasons.  It will also be possible to use slightly bigger user terminal equipment to provide 100Mbps / 20Mbps broadband services for outdoor sport or music festival events.

In short, we are now getting to a point where the convenience and flexibility of satellite are integrated with the performance of fibre, which will lead to very capable service solutions. Developing and bringing these services to market is exactly what Q-KON, as a specialist network provider, will be focussing on in 2018.

Ground equipment

To effectively open the African market, the investment can not only be in the sky. It must also be on the ground and in the local market.  The masterminds of EPIC and other HTS networks will also need to invest in major ground segment equipment that can directly connect to the local markets.  Without investment in the local infrastructure, the data communications will be from the user terminal, over the satellite, to terminate at ground stations located in America or Europe. This configuration can work for standard broadband services, but it is not suited for business and local content applications and will limit the large-scale adoption of the new generation satellite services.

In summary, EPIC and other high throughout satellites are a reality and have major potential to provide connectivity to existing and new sectors. It will just require some new vision as to what needs to be done for Africa. The EPIC technology from Intelsat and a bit of advanced system engineering can open new frontiers and develop previously untapped market sectors. 



3 Steps to Satellite Network Success

Network architects and solution design engineers mostly consider satellite networks as the final option only to be used when fibre, microwave or wireless networks cannot meet user needs. While this might be true for many applications, this approach might very well lead to implementation of solutions which are not optimum for the specific application, says Dr Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON.

The reason why network architects might not consider satellite as prime connectivity option might very well be because they have not had a good experience, or alternatively, might not be fully informed about the technology. Because satellite is a niche solution, it is also seldom included in mainstream discussions and even very influential industry events might not have satellite as part of the workshop topics to be discussed.

Here are some guidelines around designing effective satellite network solutions and unlocking the business benefits of using satellite:

1. Why satellite?

If the answer to this question is "because nothing else is available" then, in all likelihood, the final outcome of the satellite solution and user service will be poor and disappointing. The reason for this is simple: satellite cannot be a replacement for fibre, microwave or wireless. It is an alternative connectivity solution, not a replacement technology.

Fibre networks are mostly comprised of high capacity point-to-point links, whereas satellite networks are large-area point-to-multipoint distribution networks. To use satellite as a replacement for fibre will be almost as effective and efficient as it would be to use fibre to replace satellite for the DStv service in Africa.

Satellite technology should be used in line with its core strength, i.e. high reliability, distribution or aggregation of data over large areas to large number of end points. Typical scenarios are DStv distribution, ATM data networks, point-of-sale solutions and some niche broadband services.

2. Design to fit

Eskimos have 50 different words for snow, and in the same way, satellite networks are a very specialised field. Although they are normally considered a "one-size-fits-all" type of solution, very different architectures are possible within the domain of satellite network design, with each servicing a very specific business need, from back-up services for high-capacity branch networks to primary packet data networks for ATM points.

To ensure sustainable business success, the satellite network must be designed for the specific user application. Even if the specific customer sites form part of a general service provider network, the design must still be able to ensure a functional match of these specific sites to user needs.

It is exactly this specific network design element that makes implementation of successful solutions on satellite networks challenging, to say the least. Often, large telcos and service providers are reluctant to implement "customer specials" either because their business processes can't accommodate special projects, or they lack the third level satellite network engineering capabilities. In these cases, providers sadly push for implementation of the "standard solution" leading to a poor functional fit with the requirements and ultimately poor network performance.

3. Business model

The possible business models for satellite networks are very powerful and can be leveraged to almost match any business case requirement. For example, satellite networks can enable full-time dedicated contracts per site, or "on-demand" services or even "pay-per-use" options. To define, support and operate these business models requires dynamic and agile organisations.

Using specialist billing and provisioning platforms linked to very customer-centric service models, it is very possible to provide data access services at cost points below 3G or any other alternative connectivity medium. In these scenarios, organisations can then be enabled by using satellite access networks with high availability, more flexible implementation at any location, at lower cost points.

Starting from making sure the solution is suited for satellite networks, then completing a very focussed and specific design integrated with a customer centric provisioning and billing structure is essential to successfully implementing satellite networks as reliable and cost-effective data access networks.

Satellite - Ideal for African Connectivity

Satellite - Ideal for African Connectivity. With controlled network costs, continent-wide signal coverage and low-cost user terminals, satellite services can go a long way to provide broadband for all. With the planned HTS service for 2018, costs will come down and performance will go up... ideal for connecting all "off-grid" users.

Satellite Internet quicker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 and available to all registered users at no charge.

VSAT as Packet Data Communications Medium For IoT And Specifically Industrial IoT (I2oT)

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.