Satcom in Uganda

We’ve written extensively about efforts to connect Africa with the digital world (see Com in Africa: A Changing Marketplace, A Pan-African E-Network, With India’s Technology, and Which Satellites Aid Oil Exploration in Africa?, for examples).

Now, East and Southern Africa are about to be connected to the global internet pipeline by undersea cable, and terrestrial networks are rapidly expanding in major towns.

But what about the more remote nations of Africa, such as Uganda, home of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?


Like Nigeria, Uganda relies upon satellite for its principle mode of digital communications

Satellite transmission remains the most apt mode of digital communication in Uganda and much of Africa where spotty infrastructure and geographical isolation still pose a formidable challenge to the deployment of fibre optic cables, according to an official from Afsat Communications ltd.
Afsat is Africa’s largest provider of Very Small Aperture Terminal, (VSAT) based internet services. At a June 19th media presentation in Kampala on the potential of satellite technology in bringing internet access, Afsat’s General Manager Job Ndege said VSATs were still the best and cost efficient means of bringing the Ugandan masses access to internet.

Currently Afsat is marketing its services in Uganda under the brand name iWay Africa and connects its clients to: “fast, reliable, efficient and cost effective broadband intenrt” and “Tailor designed and highly available intra-corporate connectivity solutions.”

The company is present in 28 sub-Saharan African countries and has installed about 5200 VSATs on both the broadband and intra-corporate platforms. Lately there has been a lively debate among the ICT industry analysts, policy makers and academics on the relevance of VSATs in the wake of efforts, now in advanced stages, to connect East and Southern Africa to the word’s fibre optic network.

Monitor Online has a good interview with Afsat’s Job Ndege, who notes that VSAT is immune to the problems of poor infrastructure "because it is possible to have a VSAT system that completely bypasses the local infrastructure.
This is a key advantage of VSAT as compared to other technologies."

For delivery of the digital connection, Afsat’s iWay Broadband utilizes the Intelsat 10 (IS-10) and NSS-7 satellites.