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SKA, Vox, bring farmers online

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SKA SA and Vox Telecom have announced a partnership to provide farming communities in the Northern Cape affected by the implementation of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage (AGA) Act with voice and data services at a reduced cost.

The SKA is an international initiative to build the world’s largest radio telescope, which will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail, thousands of times faster than any system currently in existence.

The SKA will be located in a protected area approximately 500km in extent, recently declared by the Minister of Science and Technology in terms of the AGA Act. Through regulations, the SKA is protected from potential detrimental sources of radio interference.

Access to telecommunication services is extremely important but tends to be quite sparse and intermittent in these remote rural areas. The lack of radio signals in the area is what makes it one of the best locations in the world to build the SKA. However, protection requirements for the area mean that expanding access to telecommunication services needs to be done in a ‚Äòradio astronomy friendly’ manner that is affordable to the local communities.” explains Selaelo Matlhane, Alternative Communications and Spectrum Manager for SKA SA.

In an effort to find a solution that works for everyone, SKA initiated a competitive tender process for a satellite broadband service provider to bring a new level of connectivity to the area,” he explains. The end result is that SKA South Africa will subsidise the capital cost of satellite receiver hardware in the area, resulting in Vox Telecom being able to provide broadband satellite and telephony services in the area at significantly reduced user costs. This service will be through the provision of VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) in affected communities.

Jacques Visser, Senior Product Manager at Vox Telecom, comments: “As part of Vox Telecom’s long term strategy, we aim to bring high-speed internet connectivity to rural and agricultural areas in South Africa. We are excited about this opportunity to partner with SKA SA to connect communities not only to their friends, families and suppliers but also to the world of the internet.

YahClick, supplied via Vox Telecom’s partner YahSat in the Middle East, was launched in South Africa in 2012 and has continued to deliver reliable, high-speed internet connectivity to users in areas with limited or no internet access, at costs comparable to current terrestrial services.

Says Kevin Viret, Regional Director of YahSat Africa, “YahClick satellite broadband service was named Best Satellite Provider in Africa at SATCOM earlier this year, and is proven, with over 3,000 farmers actively using it in South Africa alone.

“YahClick’s Ka-band technology makes use of “spot beams” rather than broadcasting over an entire continent, which results in far more efficient use of the available bandwidth, at a lower cost. While satellite internet isn’t a new technology, cutting-edge “frequency reuse” maximises spectrum efficiency,” adds Visser.

The YahClick service will enable SKA SA to offer its neighbours fast, reliable internet and voice connectivity, without the radio interference”, concludes Matlhane. “Future plans in the coming year will be to turn our attention to increasing access to mobile communications in the area – in a radio astronomy friendly manner, of course!

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