European Space Agency

SatSoHoAfrica

Objectives

The aim of the SatSoHoAfrica “Satellite Services for SoHo in Africa” project is to design, develop, validate and pilot the necessary technological and service elements to allow the provision of competitive broadband internet services to Small-office-Home-office (SoHo) users in Sub-Saharan Africa. This segment is composed of a variety of micro-enterprises, such as farms, tourist lodges and hotels that have typically less than 10 employees, limited resources and highly variable and hardly predictable data-traffic needs, which tend to change with their seasonal activities (e.g. agriculture market and tourism seasons).

In order to meet the specific SoHo community needs, SatADSL develops a set of “pay as you go” services that are volume-based, do not require monthly subscription and are not subject to any volume reset, which is instead enforced in the (B2B) Business2Business high end professional services already provided by SatADSL (for more info see SatFinAfrica project web page)
 
SatSoHoAfrica  develops and validates a set of enhancements and applications which allow SatADSL to target an addressable market of the order of 50,000 terminals in the time frame 2015-2020.  The proposed activities include the adaptation and integration of management features enabling an effective and low cost “pay as you go” modality in presence of a large number of users and terminals, covering accounting, fault monitoring and help desk, customizable front end adaptable to the branding of the distributor, and the inclusion of a protected transmission modality to accommodate security type applications (such as alarms, useful to remote farmers that are often assaulted by burglars).
 
The SoHo services have to be sold via several local African distributors who re-sell the service to their final SoHo customers, on behalf of SatADSL as currently already done in the offered B2B services.
 
Beside the Ku-band Newtec Sat3Play platform already used by SatADSL, the proposed project integrates and validates a Ka-band Sat3Play platform using the multi-beam payload of Avanti HYLAS 2 deployed over Sub-Saharan Africa.

Challenges

One of the major critical issue for the adoption by the users of Internet services in Africa is the pricing policy, which has to be affordable for the users, and their investment risk (CAPEX) to be borne for the procurement of the satellite equipment and associated installation services.
 
The main aim of the SatSoHoAfrica project is to offer very competitive pricing policies, thanks to the usage of Ka-band technology, to the pay-as-you-go schemes and to the Automatic Payment Services, and at the same time to provide free-of-charge pilot demonstrations to convince a significant pool of users about the reliability, performances and ease-of-use of the offered service.

Benefits

The final demonstration of the new services during the pilot phase with numerous end-users provides SatADSL with the required experience for mastering those services and convince the users to subscribe to the services.
 
The competitive pricing associated with those services allows SatADSL to target a market of about 50,000 SoHo terminals in the time frame 2014-2018.  
 
The possibility to run in parallel on two different bands (Ku and Ka) the same set of services, on the same Newtec Sat3Play platform and by the same team, provides a unique opportunity to compare the behaviours of the two technologies and the associated operational implications. It has to be highlighted that SatSoHoAfrica provides the first opportunity of commercially using Newtec Sat3Play in Ka-band in Sub-Saharan Africa.
 

The services already developed in SatFinAfrica and those to be developed in SatSoHoAfrica do nicely complement themselves, providing SatADSL with the unique strength of being able to virtually address the needs of any sub-Saharan African customer via the same Sat3Play platform.

Features

 The following five service components are developed, integrated and demonstrated: 

  • Voucher-based Services, to provide pay-as-you-go schemes consisting in a specified volume of data to be consumed by the user in a given interval of time (e.g. from 1 up to  6 months)
  • Hot-Spot Services,  to serve customers of Hotels and Lodges via low cost WiFi access point offering multiple payment options (e.g. credit/debit cards, PayPal, scratch cards, mobile phone credits), multiple languages and multiple currencies, in order to provide Internet access based on volume, time or a combination of both
  • Security Services, to transmit over the same platform prioritised traffic generated by security and alarm applications. This element is limited to a Proof of Concept to verify that the transmission feature is correctly implemented
  • Automatic Payment Services, which are necessary to manage large number of transactions with low Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU) per terminal, as highly expected in the SoHo market. This provides also for user-friendly on-line web-pages branded by the Local Distributors, where the users can buy  and get immediately access to their services. Via the Customer Management Tool, Resellers can as well procure vouchers from the Distributor in an automated way.
  • Ka-band Services, for the provision of high data rate services to a subset of the pilot sites (e.g. likely the ones providing the Hot-Spot services) via the Ka-band beams of the HYLAS 2 satellite of Avanti deployed over Africa. Due to the higher bit/Hz efficiency compared to Ku-Band, large volume of traffic is better served via the Ka-Band platform 
The Figure 1 provides an overview of the SatSoHoAfrica service architecture to be deployed to support the services offered by SatADSL. The elements marked in red and belonging to the building block of Avanti Ka-Hub, SatADSL CMT, SatADSL NMS and Mandac Hot-Spot have to be developed, customised, integrated and/or adapted in the frame of the project activities. 
SatSoHoAfrica Architecture
SatSoHoAfrica Architecture

Plan

The project is covering in a first step (five months period) the specification of the User and System Requirements, the architecture design and the interfaces development.
 
In a second step, lasting about three months, field validations are carried out with local distributors, with a total of 10 terminals located nearby their premises.
 
These Proof-of-Concepts and on-the-field validation activities have to be finalised before launching the third step consisting in an eight months pilot phase with end-customers. The SoHo pilots involve 5 SatADSL Distributors with a total of up to 30 installed terminals. Their objectives are to validate the SoHo services developed, in an operational environment, over a long period and with a number of operational sites large enough to validate the service in an operational-like scenario (e.g. traffic congestion and rain).
 
A key objective is also to collect end-users feedback and allow for fine-tuning of the services before launching the commercial roll-out stage.

Current status

The pilot activities are progressing with excellent results and users’ satisfaction (about 80 users have already subscribed commercially to the services) and they are expected to be completed in Aug2015.

The prime contractor is working on a CCN (about 1MEUR cost / 500 kEUR price) to develop and pilot a tailored solution of the SoHo service with the WiFi Hot-Spot features for education in about 30 schools in Ghana. The proposal is expected to be submitted in July 2015.

The final review of the original project activities (i.e. not including the CCN) is planned by end August 2015.

Status date

Monday, July 20, 2015 - 11:22