Up to 300 homes in rural communities will have access to broadband connectivity following a new partnership agreement between SKA South Africa and Vox Telecom.
Vox Telecom will connect hundreds of homes and farms around the SKA South Africa core site in the Northern Cape, in areas which previously had little or no connectivity. Costs for local communities will be subsidised through the partnership.
By introducing high-speed internet connections, the people of the Karoo will be able to make voice calls, and access broadband data services, through satellite services.
Satellite broadband is another form of wireless broadband, and is useful for serving remote or sparsely populated areas.
Previously, the area was poorly served because of the long distances and sparse population, which deterred mobile companies from investing in the region. The existing landline infrastructure had also fallen into disrepair.
On top of this, the SKA South Africa site and surrounding areas are highly sensitive to radio interference and so conventional technology is now restricted by law.
SKA South Africa has undertaken this initiative so that the communication needs of the Karoo communities around the SKA South Africa site are met using a ‘radio astronomy friendly’ solution.
The project also includes a mobile telecommunication solution that will operate below the SKA South Africa frequency and which will not interfere with the facilities.
The system has been designed with the farmer and farm worker in mind by connecting them via a satellite dish and modem. Pre-paid vouchers are available for farmworkers so these do not have to be paid for by the farmer. People who live close to the telescope should fill in a form to apply for the subsidised internet connectivity and voice phone service.
Entrepreneurs in the area wishing to start their own internet and phone services may also apply for a SKA subsidy.