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).
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.
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 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.