Ensuring communication connectivity

Satellite technology connects Karoo residents

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.

What about mobile calls?

SKA South Africa has identified the need for an ‘astronomy friendly’ way for the local community to access telecommunications.

Following a detailed technology review and procurement process, it was decided the best solution was to provide a satellite broadband solution that would make fixed internet connectivity and voice telephony possible.

On the satellite broadband solution, SKA South Africa paid the full capital cost of end-user equipment and the telecoms service provider signed a contract with end-users for the subscription and usage fees.

However, there is still a need for people to be able to make mobile calls, possibly through a ‘trunked radio’ system.

This is a complex, computer-controlled, two-way radio system that allows sharing of relatively few radio frequency channels among a large group of users, making it possible for users to make calls to each other and to cell phones or landlines. SKA South Africa plans to secure the services of a telecommunication provider, following a tender process, in order to supply this mobile two-way radio service.

Did you know?

R500
Amount Karoo communities are willing to pay for telecoms per month

R185
What residents will pay thanks to the subsidy

R119
Cost of a monthly internet bundle (2GB bundle)

R0.000950 per second
Cost of a voice to voice call