Major undersea cable network company launches satellite connectivity

Submarine cable network operator and managed connectivity service provider Seacom has launched a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite service for its enterprise clients in South Africa.

The company said the service marked an “evolutionary” shift in connectivity in South Africa and complemented existing terrestrial broadband infrastructure and technologies.

“The launch comes after a two-year process of consultation with industry partners,” Seacom said.

“During that time, Seacom was part of the purchase order of the first shipment of LEO satellite equipment into South Africa.”

“Upon delivery, the company proceeded to complete all necessary installations and test trials.”

Seacom said its enterprise clients can now integrate LEO satellite connectivity into their network infrastructure and business continuity strategies.

“Data that’s routed through the satellite is beamed to teleport facilities placed in geographically strategic locations, from which it is then routed to various network centres and endpoints,” Seacom stated.

Seacom told MyBroadband it was using Eutelsat OneWeb to provide the LEO service in South Africa.

Starlink is the biggest LEO satellite provider in the world, but OneWeb is the only service that is currently officially supported in South Africa.

The Eutelsat-owned service also has official local distribution through Paratus and Q-KON and is focused on enterprise connectivity, Seacom’s area of expertise.

Starlink is focused more on individual customers but also offers systems for businesses.

However, despite its roaming service being available in South Africa, it has not been officially approved for local use.

Seacom explained that LEO satellites orbited the Earth at an altitude of 2,000 kilometres or less.

This makes them capable of providing higher data speeds and lower latency than geosynchronous satellites on older services, which orbit around 35,000km above the Earth.

“LEO is especially optimal for enterprises with low latency and intensive workload requirements, including those in sectors such as financial services, retail, mining, and education,” Seacom said.

The company’s group CEO Alpheus Mangale said the ultimate goal was to make the LEO service an essential value offering for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

LEO can help tackle load-shedding

Seacom said that its consultation with clients showed that the most prominent challenge faced by enterprises was South Africa’s ongoing energy crisis.

This required the company to explore new connectivity avenues with clients, including LEO, to address the impact of load-shedding on their businesses.

Satellite connectivity is not as dependent on local base stations or nodes as fixed-line or cellular broadband, which means LEO services can generally function when local infrastructure fails due to power outages.

In addition, satellite services that are capable of inter-satellite communication — like SpaceX’s Starlink — are not as susceptible to fibre breaks as fixed networks.

That is because they can transmit data to each other over long distances in space, bypassing the need to transfer data through cables in the ground or ocean.

At some point, however, the connection must be relayed to a ground station so that communication between the user and data centre can take place. However, this ground station can be halfway across the world.

Nevertheless, Seacom stressed that LEO was not a “silver bullet” that negated the need for existing terrestrial infrastructure altogether.

“The truth is that it’s a component of a comprehensive connectivity ecosystem and solution that requires collaborative solutions to address,” said Seacom general sales manager Clayton Codd.

Seacom also said it was partnering with one of South Africa’s leading financial service providers, who will use LEO to expand its network access capabilities and ensure reliable product and service delivery.

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Major undersea cable network company launches satellite connectivity