[Via Satellite 03-24-2015] O3b Networks has swept up a number of customers in Africa this month, most notably in Somalia where the operator’s Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)-based satellite services have found popularity. Hormuud Telecommunication, the largest operator in Somalia by customer base and coverage, entered a multi-year contract to provide O3b-based satellite connectivity in the capital city of Mogadishu, along with central and southern regions of Somalia. Golis Telecom, the largest provider of telecommunications services in Somalia’s autonomous Puntland region, and Telesom, a top Mobile Network Operator in the separatist region Somaliland are also committed multi-year customers.
Emerging markets are a top focus of O3b, which is well known for its mission of connecting the “Other 3 Billion.” Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East are emphasized regions. The company completed its initial constellation of eight MEO satellites in July 2014, and grew to 12 with the December 2014 launch of four more satellite aboard an Arianespace Soyuz rocket. In a previous interview, O3b CEO Steve Collar said the fleet could grow beyond 100 spacecraft as time goes on.
Each customer has different plans on how to use O3b’s Ka-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) capacity, which delivers round trip latency of less than 150 milliseconds. Hormuud Telecomm intends to deploy O3bTrunk for trunking in the Somali capital, and O3bCell in central and southern parts of the country for cellular backhaul. The company is now starting to offer public and private cloud services, and covers every major population center in the nation’s central and southern regions. O3b’s satellite coverage will reach most major towns in these regions.
“Many applications are only possible with low latency and satellite is the preferred option of Hormuud Telecom when it comes to delivering its Fixed Broad Band (FBB), Mobile Broad Band (MBB) and cloud applications services to its customers in all the major towns of Somalia. Only O3b can deliver these capabilities over satellite, and that’s what customers in Somalia increasingly demand,” Ahmed M. Yuusuf, chairman and CEO of Hormuud Telecom said in a statement.
Golis Telecom also intends to use O3bTrunk, and O3bCell products. The company has telecom centers in every major city and town within Puntland, along with extensive network infrastructure. In addition to telecom services such as broadband and 2G and 3G voice and data, Golis Telecom also provides electric power in Bosasso where it is headquartered. Leveraging O3b connectivity, the operator plans to cover most of the big towns in Puntland by satellite.
The Somali Mobile Network Operator (MNO) Telesom likewise intends to deploy O3b trunking and cellular backhaul solutions. The telco opted for satellite as a means to reach a greater number of population centers. Telesom is also upping the level of data use, having introduced 3G service in July 2011.
O3b Networks will connect each of these customers using 700km wide satellite beams. The telcos will have access to throughputs as high as 1.6 Gbps.
Another recent Africa-win, Chad-based ISP and Pay-TV operator Presta Bist became O3b’s 10th customer on the continent this month. The company’s first, Raga Sat of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) started service in November 2014. Presta Bist plans to use satellite for cellular backhaul services. The telco is O3b’s first customer in the Sahel countries, comprised of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Chad has limited fiber build-out for its population of 11 million people. Using satellite, Presta Bist will provide customers with a triple play solution of Voice Over IP (VOIP), broadband, and Video-on-Demand (VOD) television over broadband wireless network.
According to O3b, other deals with Africa customers are in the works.
“The Sahel countries are a high priority for O3b, and Presta Bist is an ideal company to be the initial adopter for O3b’s impactful technology in the region. The countries of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, as well as the Central African Republic are landlocked, with erratic terrestrial fiber connections dependent on neighboring countries. With populations who have a rapidly growing need for bandwidth, O3b’s Fiber in the Sky solution is a perfect fit,” said Omar Trujillo, VP of O3b’s Africa and Latin America business.