The rapid increase in smartphone and data usage across Africa has been the real success story in the region in recent years, with the continued roll-out of high quality data provision fuelling an explosion in usage and demand for consumers across the continent.
There is still huge potential for further growth, but in some regions this is being severely hampered by the inability of the underlying infrastructure to continue to enable 100% provision, in the event the fibre or submarine cabling connecting the area fails. With the continued adoption of 4G (LTE) and universal access to mobile broadband, it is sometimes hard to remember that huge sections of the world’s population are only connected by one or two submarine or terrestrial cables.
This is especially pertinent in Africa where mobile operators are facing a decrease in traditional voice revenue which has not yet been offset by an increase of data mobile revenue. There has been a sharp increase in the number of smartphones used, boosted by accessibility to 4G, with GSMA forecasts indicating that well over half of all connections in Sub-Sahara Africa will be smartphones by 2020, which has risen from 13% at the end of 2013.
African operators have very specific problems in proving strong connectivity for their customers. Geographic issues mean many markets are completely inaccessible by sea and whole countries can sometimes be connected by only a few fibre cables covering many miles. This increases the risk of breakages leading to connectivity blackouts that can last for weeks.
Add into this delicate infrastructure severe weather patterns and destructive human intervention, and it is clear domestic and international operators require an intelligent and cost-effective back-up solution to enable the continuous connectivity necessary to support further growth.
Satellite has emerged as the preferred option to meet this need. Its capacity solutions can provide a reliable back-up to operators concerned about disaster recovery and the stability of current capacity backhaul infrastructure. IP over Satellite (IPoSat) in particular can be quickly deployed to cover any problems with existing backhaul solutions and offers speeds of up to 200mbps. The flexibility of the solution is enhanced if operators combine satellite provision with their existing IP infrastructure, which can now be achieved through a single platform from BICS.
BICS’ RouteFlex provides an intelligent and cost-efficient IPoSAT back-up solution, supported by an SDN (Software Defined Network), which enables operators to handle high volumes of IP data using satellite and applying end-to-end differential treatment to different types of aggregated data flows during peaks or outages. For example, when primary infrastructure is compromised or faces an outage, BICS’ satellite back-up solution prioritises high value traffic, increasing bandwidth efficiency by blocking less critical, high bandwidth services such as online gaming and video streaming.
Using this provision as a strong backbone to existing services can greatly improve the reliability of wireless services in Africa, in turn supporting increased usage of wireless services in the region.
Combining this satellite provision with an extensive network of local PoPs, BICS’ RouteFlex offers operators a level of affordable reliability previously unavailable in the region. RouteFlex has the ability to enhance coverage through dynamically switching between fibre and satellite facilities, ensuring the provision of high quality services when the network requires balancing.
Optimisation can also be performed across whole regions, with large operator groups able to move capacity between its neighbouring markets, enhancing roaming propositions.
An article by Clementine FOURNIER, Regional Vice President Africa, BICS | 17th of November 2015