TECHNOLOGY: Low-Cost Satellite Communication For SA
Recent Western Cape Business News
Cape Town-based industrial telecommunications provider Metacom has developed a low-cost satellite communications solution ideal for low usage industrial and commercial applications in remote areas of Southern Africa.
“In many parts of Southern Africa there is no GSM or terrestrial communication services, or it is heavily congested or prohibitively expensive,” says Metacom MD Réan van Niekerk. “We’ve rolled out a unique satellite solution that is quick and easy to install, without the need for costly site surveys. The device is about the size of a notebook computer and it does not include a large external dish with costly installation requirements. It contains all the intelligence it needs to send data securely and reliably into our managed virtual private network (VPN) and back to the customer, or alternatively for internet and email access.”
Van Niekerk cites a recent experience to illustrate how the satellite solution can solve remote communication problems: “A client came to us who was having huge problems getting connectivity to ATM machines in rural areas. He took a sample device out to a remote site and set it up himself that morning. With satellite, as long as you can see the sky you have guaranteed access. And our solution is far more cost-effective than larger installations.”
Metacom’s satellite solution is best suited to low-bandwidth applications such as point of sale transactions, EFT fail over or machine to machine communication, Van Niekerk says. “It is extremely cost effective for bandwidth usage up to about 100-150MB per month. After that other solutions may be more appropriate; we always recommend the solution that is best suited to our clients’ needs.”
Metacom’s devices are all remotely monitored and managed from its South African based International Operations Centre to ensure maximum uptime. Every satellite device also contains GSM SIM cards where GSM coverage is available, to serve as a backup management connection, or to enable a switchover to GSM communications if the customers’ primary means of communication fail. The unique hardware configuration allows for remote management of the solution and the wide input voltage range with hardware watchdog ensures optimal reliability and effective power management.
“Even if your primary communication is via Diginet, you still need a failover solution,” says Van Niekerk. ”Satellite is excellent for that so long as you can do it cost-effectively. Our clients who failover to satellite know that even if the terrestrial networks are unavailable, their critical data will still go through. A retail store, for example, could still process credit card transactions.”
The new device is already installed in Southern African countries in which Metacom operates. “It’s a unique, low-cost, low-bandwidth satellite option that’s easy to install and provides seamless connectivity through Metacom’s network,” says Van Niekerk.
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