SatSoHoAfrica

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The aim of the SatSoHoAfrica “Satellite Services for SoHo in Africa” project is to design, develop, validate and pilot the necessary technological and service elements to allow the provision of competitive broadband internet services to Small-office-Home-office (SoHo) users in Sub-Saharan Africa. This segment is composed of a variety of micro-enterprises, such as farms, tourist lodges and hotels that have typically less than 10 employees, limited resources and highly variable and hardly predictable data-traffic needs, which tend to change with their seasonal activities (e.g. agriculture market and tourism seasons).

In order to meet the specific SoHo community needs, SatADSL develops a set of “pay as you go” services that are volume-based, do not require monthly subscription and are not subject to any volume reset, which is instead enforced in the (B2B) Business2Business high end professional services already provided by SatADSL (for more info see SatFinAfrica project web page)
 
SatSoHoAfrica  develops and validates a set of enhancements and applications which allow SatADSL to target an addressable market of the order of 50,000 terminals in the time frame 2015-2020.  The proposed activities include the adaptation and integration of management features enabling an effective and low cost “pay as you go” modality in presence of a large number of users and terminals, covering accounting, fault monitoring and help desk, customizable front end adaptable to the branding of the distributor, and the inclusion of a protected transmission modality to accommodate security type applications (such as alarms, useful to remote farmers that are often assaulted by burglars).
 
The SoHo services have to be sold via several local African distributors who re-sell the service to their final SoHo customers, on behalf of SatADSL as currently already done in the offered B2B services.
 
Beside the Ku-band Newtec Sat3Play platform already used by SatADSL, the proposed project integrates and validates a Ka-band Sat3Play platform using the multi-beam payload of Avanti HYLAS 2 deployed over Sub-Saharan Africa.
 

CHALLENGES

One of the major critical issue for the adoption by the users of Internet services in Africa is the pricing policy, which has to be affordable for the users, and their investment risk (CAPEX) to be borne for the procurement of the satellite equipment and associated installation services.
 
The main aim of the SatSoHoAfrica project is to offer very competitive pricing policies, thanks to the usage of Ka-band technology, to the pay-as-you-go schemes and to the Automatic Payment Services, and at the same time to provide free-of-charge pilot demonstrations to convince a significant pool of users about the reliability, performances and ease-of-use of the offered service.

Product Benefits

The final demonstration of the new services during the pilot phase with numerous end-users provides SatADSL with the required experience for mastering those services and convince the users to subscribe to the services.
 
The competitive pricing associated with those services allows SatADSL to target a market of about 50,000 SoHo terminals in the time frame 2014-2018.  
 
The possibility to run in parallel on two different bands (Ku and Ka) the same set of services, on the same Newtec Sat3Play platform and by the same team, provides a unique opportunity to compare the behaviours of the two technologies and the associated operational implications. It has to be highlighted that SatSoHoAfrica provides the first opportunity of commercially using Newtec Sat3Play in Ka-band in Sub-Saharan Africa.
 

The services already developed in SatFinAfrica and those to be developed in SatSoHoAfrica do nicely complement themselves, providing SatADSL with the unique strength of being able to virtually address the needs of any sub-Saharan African customer via the same Sat3Play platform.

Product Features

 The following five service components are developed, integrated and demonstrated: 

  • Voucher-based Services, to provide pay-as-you-go schemes consisting in a specified volume of data to be consumed by the user in a given interval of time (e.g. from 1 up to  6 months)
  • Hot-Spot Services,  to serve customers of Hotels and Lodges via low cost WiFi access point offering multiple payment options (e.g. credit/debit cards, PayPal, scratch cards, mobile phone credits), multiple languages and multiple currencies, in order to provide Internet access based on volume, time or a combination of both
  • Security Services, to transmit over the same platform prioritised traffic generated by security and alarm applications. This element is limited to a Proof of Concept to verify that the transmission feature is correctly implemented
  • Automatic Payment Services, which are necessary to manage large number of transactions with low Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU) per terminal, as highly expected in the SoHo market. This provides also for user-friendly on-line web-pages branded by the Local Distributors, where the users can buy  and get immediately access to their services. Via the Customer Management Tool, Resellers can as well procure vouchers from the Distributor in an automated way.
  • Ka-band Services, for the provision of high data rate services to a subset of the pilot sites (e.g. likely the ones providing the Hot-Spot services) via the Ka-band beams of the HYLAS 2 satellite of Avanti deployed over Africa. Due to the higher bit/Hz efficiency compared to Ku-Band, large volume of traffic is better served via the Ka-Band platform 
The Figure 1 provides an overview of the SatSoHoAfrica service architecture to be deployed to support the services offered by SatADSL. The elements marked in red and belonging to the building block of Avanti Ka-Hub, SatADSL CMT, SatADSL NMS and Mandac Hot-Spot have to be developed, customised, integrated and/or adapted in the frame of the project activities.

Current Status

The Final Review of the original (plus CCN#1) activities was successfully done in October 2015.

The prime contractor has submitted a CCN2 (about 1MEUR cost / 500 kEUR price) to develop and pilot a tailored solution of the SoHo service with the WiFi Hot-Spot features for education in 40 schools in Ghana.
The CCN#2 activities were kicked-off in November 2015 and the Baseline Design Review milestone took successfully place on 9 December 2015 with a preliminary iteration of the user and system requirements related to the hot-spot service.

All 40 pilot sites (i.e. schools in Ghana) have been successfully installed and validated for the Videoconference service, which is operationally used by the teachers and students.

The development of the Hot Spot service and of the multicasting monitoring tools, which include an interface to the Solar Panel/battery sub-system, have been finalised and the Site Acceptance Test was achieved on 21 April 2016. Since then, e-learning activities have been conducted in all schools, and the Hotspot has been used with lots of enthusiasm by the local communities.

The Final review of the CCN#2 activities successfully took place on the 25th of July 2017.

The results of pilot are very satisfactory, mainly for the pilot school customers that greatly appreciated the new service features. 
All 40 eLearning Pilot sites are fully operational and Varkey became a SatADSL long-term committed commercial customers.
In addition, the projects allowed Varkey to appreciate the usefulness of the hotspot feature for the local populations and as a conclusion decides to implement such hotspots as a baseline for all its future projects. 

Important project spin-offs are expected in the coming years. Indeed, for NGOs active in remote areas in Africa and already having their own satellite communication network the possibility of using this network for supporting local populations and generating some revenues can be very much appealing. The result of this project is not only be applicable to eLearning projects, but also to alternative users active in remote areas such as hospitals, radios or postal offices. SatADSL is currently discussing with several of these alternative users.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Caroline de Vos
SatADSL
Rue Royale 182 Bte 23
B-1000 Brussels
Belgium
+32 2 351 33 74

ESA Project Manager

Davide Tomassini
ESA/ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1
2200 AG Noordwijk ZH
Netherlands
+31 71 565 6565

Status Date

Updated: 20 May 2016 - Created: 20 July 2015