SpeedCast CEO Talks Ka-Band Strategy in Africa
Earlier this month, SpeedCast announced it was launching a new Ka-band service to serve key North Africa and Middle East markets. The company, which used to be owned by AsiaSat, is broadening its horizons and now sees Africa as a key target market for their business. Pierre-Jean Beylier, SpeedCast’s CEO talks about the launch of the new service and how he views the prospects for Ka-band in Africa and the Middle East.
VIA SATELLITE: What is the significance of launching a Ka-band service in the Middle East and Africa? How do you view the prospects for Ka-band in these markets?
Beylier:Rather than Ka-band, the significance has more to do with the appearance of High Throughput Satellites (HTS) and their ability to significantly reduce the subscriber’s cost of bandwidth. SpeedCast has been providing satellite broadband services into Africa for several years already using C-band and Ku-band beams; adding Ka-band completes the portfolio.
SpeedCast sees immediate opportunities for Ka-band frequency services in the Middle East and Africa due to the low levels of precipitation in these regions. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for these markets; SpeedCast sees a combination of service offerings as the ideal business plans in these countries.
We view prospects to include demand from various areas: new subscribers driven by government and local ISP efforts for broadband Internet penetration; VSAT mobility requirements from customers needing smaller, more portable remotes; dual VSAT installations from customers upgrading bandwidth cost effectively, augmenting their existing service with Ka-band; and, finally, data offloading in cellular networks.
VIA SATELLITE: What impact can Ka-band make in markets such as Libya and Afghanistan?
Beylier: Although telecoms infrastructure has been developing in both these countries, broadband penetration is still less than 30 percent. SpeedCast expects that Ka-band will primarily benefit ISPs in accelerating the broadband penetration in their local markets. SpeedCast sells exclusively into the business market. There may be wider implications for the consumer market, but this is not a market that SpeedCast serves.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you targeting other markets in Africa? What do you see as the prospects for Ka-band in this region?
Beylier: SpeedCast specializes in helping its Asia-Pacific based customers with their communications requirements in Africa. For instance, SpeedCast has provided services for its customers in places such as Algeria, Angola, and Zambia. SpeedCast sees strong future growth potential in Africa, and we anticipate continued strong demand in the region across all sectors. Ka-band will play an important role in Africa, particularly in the areas where precipitation is at a reasonable level.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you view the demand for HTS in the Middle East and Africa? Do you need more of this type of capacity in these regions?
Beylier: We certainly see a surge in the supply of HTS capacity covering these markets and with even more expecting to come online. Only time will tell if demand will keep up with the supply; we believe the availability of more capacity in any market is a positive. The African market, particularly the inner continent, is still underserved with broadband access. This will help to drive prices down and make these services more accessible for more customers. Since we are technology and spectrum agnostic, we will select the right solution for the customer based on their requirements.
VIA SATELLITE: What are SpeedCast’s aspirations in the Middle East and Africa? How do you view the growth in these regions compared to Asia?
Beylier: As the business connection between Africa and Asia continues to strengthen, SpeedCast is pleased to support out Asian customers’ expansion plans into this region. Our goal is to deliver the same high-level of quality and reliability of service SpeedCast is known for in the Asia-Pacific market and support to our customers in the African market.
We cannot speak to the overall African market growth, but we can say that SpeedCast’s growth in the region is strong. We are seeing an increasing demand from our Asia-Pacific based customers in the Africa market. This expansion of service is one step in a series of investments that SpeedCast has made in the Africa market. In fact, SpeedCast has just recently invested in additional personnel in the African continent to support this growth. We really view both Asia and Africa as strong growth opportunities.
VIA SATELLITE: Will you need to make an acquisition in the region to boost your position? What is the roadmap for growth for the company?
Beylier: SpeedCast has a well-established network of partners in Africa, our own personnel based there, and an office in Dubai, U.A.E. that oversees the Africa market. The company has just completed three acquisitions in less than nine months; therefore you will see us take some time to successfully integrate the acquired companies into the group. We have no immediate acquisitions planned for the African market. However we will continue to execute on our strategy of organic and acquisitive growth and to assess appropriate opportunities when the conditions are right.
VIA SATELLITE: Finally, what trends are you seeing in the African communications market?
Beylier: Africa is a complex market; we can only speak to what we are seeing in the regions that we serve: fiber continues to make inroad into the African market, but the inner continent it still underserved by reliable connectivity; regulation is complex and conducting business in the region is not easy; and customers value companies with experience and proven track-records.