Sky and Space Global (SAS Global), a British public company is set to launch 200 shoebox-sized nano-satellites by the end of 2020. The firm bets its low cost model will appeal to telecoms customers in Africa.
SAS Global, which is looking to capitalise on a data services boom across Africa, has been joined by larger European rivals. Given Africa’s size, difficult terrain and low broadband penetration, satellites are often the most cost-efficient and practical way to connect remote rural towns.
According to technology research firm Ovum, the non-SMS mobile-data revenue from broadband access and mobile digital services, is expected to more than double to $32 billion in 2022 from $13 billion in 2017. This means that the gaps in connectivity across the continent represent a commercial opportunity for businesses that can fill them.
SAS Global’s CEO, Meir Moalem said “we are on track for launch next year and within less than two years we will have the entire constellation of 200 satellites in space. Africa is a huge untapped market with very large economic opportunity”.
The SAS constellation, dubbed “Pearls”, which will be released in batches of about 30 nano-satellites from the second quarter of 2019, will eventually cover a region ranging from the bottom of Angola to Sudan and including Nigeria.
In its bid to provide basic services such as voice calls, texting and instant messaging, the company seeks to capture a market of about 3 billion unconnected people across the equatorial belt in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.
The nano-satellites weigh about 10kg each, cost less than $1million to build and launch to an orbit some 700km above the Earth.
Moalem revealed that the nano-satelities which were built by GomSpace are cost efficient. He said “that means you can get your return on investment without charging an arm and a leg for the services you are selling’.
He noted that SAS Global was already in talks with mobile operators, but will not compete directly with larger satellite rivals offering great bandwidth.