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Fibre versus satcom - do they compete or complete?

Lior Kahan of Gilat Satcom has written to Developing Telecoms, asking whether fibre-based and satellite communications are really the rivals they are made out to be, ie, do they compete with each other or do they complement each other?

First developed in the 1970s, fibre-optic communication systems were considered a revolutionary development that played a major role in the introduction of the Information Age. One of their most important strengths is their ability to transmit high data rates compared to other technologies. Therefore, fibre-optics systems were largely adopted in many densely populated areas.

They have not as yet, however, penetrated to Africa. In fact, this reality is about to change soon as major fiber-optics projects will become reality in the future and connect Africa to the world. Unfortunately, this will not remove connectivity obstacles within Africa. For example, there are few inherent characteristics that oblige fibre-optic systems to be dependent on satellite communication.

Being influenced by population density, the Operational Expenditure (OPEX) in low-populated areas is extremely high, resulting in a very high price per bit to the end-user. As a result, it is VSAT connectivity that will remain popular in remote geographical locations.

Fibre-optics' ability to provide large chunks of data to designated areas at comparably low cost makes them the best solution for the connection of major links with populated areas. By contrast, due to its massive deployment capacity and fast establishment time, satellite will remain a dominant technology in Africa.

A combined solution of fibre-optic connection to central landing points and satellite connectivity from central cities to rural areas is due to increase supply and to generate growth in demand and at the end of the day to bring the information age to the most distant locations in Africa.

Satellite communication remains the optimal backup in case of landline failure:only by having an independent transmission such as satellite network can users be confident that their critical applications will remain online.

The conclusion is that fibre-optic and satellite complete one another; they generate interest in one another and enhance the abilities of each platform, benefiting the customer with more complete solutions. Satellite bandwidth is due to diminish in percentage but will grow in actual consumption due to overall demand.

If you would like to respond to Lior Kahan's comments, please contact Developing Telecoms. 

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