Elara Comunicaciones, the Mexican service provider that started implementing a large-scale satellite network to bring voice and data service to 2,717 towns in rural southeastern Mexico, is hoping to replicate its success in at least two other countries in the region in the near future. According to Jorge Villarreal, CEO, Elara Comunicaciones, the company is planning to execute on some regional opportunities, which will boost the company’s growth.
“We plan to have infrastructure operated and owned by Elara in at least two more countries in South America. Over the next two to three years, our objective is to replicate our success in Mexico elsewhere. We are looking at countries in Central America, and there are countries like Colombia, Peru and Chile with markets we think could become important to us,” he said. “We want to make a specific effort in developing those markets. We hope to develop services in the medium to long term. We are looking to become a much more regional player.”
The company is hopeful it could play a role as High Throughput Satellites (HTS)/Ka-band become more prevalent on the region’s communications’ landscape. “We are talking with a couple of operators with Ka-band projects where Elara may be able to provide services. In developing countries, Internet access has been declared a universal right for the population. For teleport integrators like Elara, this poses a number of opportunities,” said Villarreal.
The company’s home market is Mexico, a country with a population of over 110 million. Elara’s project to connect over 2.700 towns has seen its work with U.S. technology vendor iDirect, and Villarreal admits the Mexican government has been an important supporter.
“This is a project that would not be possible without government support. By allocating government resources, we will be able to provide connectivity to small villages. This is critical from an economic point of view, and it is vital for private operators such as Elara to be able to do this,” he said. “We were granted a project to install 2,700 VSATs in rural villages, where we will be able to connect multiple schools. Thanks to a suggestion by Elara, the government has agreed to connect more schools and more clinics. So, we are building hotspots in some of these sites, in order for the community to access the Internet with any mobile device or laptop without cost. This is a major step in providing telecoms services to these areas.”
While the company is looking to build a position in new country markets in the region, it plans to drive growth in three areas. First, Elara hopes to see more organic growth in traditional verticals such as oil & gas, mining, construction, retail and banking to help communications in remote sites, where there are no terrestrial solutions. Second, the company is looking to develop new niches for its business, such as GSM backhaul, for example. “Traditional mobile operators are very focused on developing LTE networks in urban areas. They are leaving behind their strategy to provide services to rural areas, and that is where we fit in. We see good expectations for these types of services,” Villarreal added. Finally, Elara is working on several Mexican government projects not only to bring Internet connectivity to rural sites, but also fixed and mobile telephony, WiFi and eventually IPTV services to parts of the country.
Villarreal expects satellite to remain an important part of the communications landscape in Mexico. “Countries like Mexico which have a large territory, create a number of challenges for terrestrial carriers in order for them to grow microwave networks. Satellite becomes a critical factor to solve connectivity issues,” he said. ‘In most of the villages where we are implementing connectivity it is very difficult to have access to terrestrial solutions. From now on, satellite will basically be the only option to reduce the digital divide in Mexico. Most of the urban areas are covered by terrestrial options. In the next six to 10 years in Mexico, satellite will be the main form of communication and this will help in reducing the digital divide in the country.”