Gilat Satcom has launched a portfolio of satellite services for rural Africa that will require subscribers to pay as little as US$1 per month.
The Village Island portfolio of services will allow rural dwellers in Africa to access voice-over-IP (VoIP), cellular, video over IP and Wi-Fi connections via private satellite networks.
Gilat said Village Island is being supported by governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), network operators, churches and major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and is aimed at specified groups in rural areas.
The initiative comes as the high cost of communications and Internet connectivity in the region prevent many rural Africans from using telecom and Web services.
The project will designate so-called Village Nano-ISPs to sell services directly to individuals. The nano-ISPs could be schools, churches, village chiefs or organizations.
Gilat said three packages will be offered under the Village Island portfolio, including a Basic Island package providing the Village Nano-ISP with two tablet devices for accessing Internet, VoIP and Video over IP services. Usage is uncapped and a fixed monthly rate is charged. This service also allows calls to be made to mobile and fixed phones.
The company said the "Wi-Fi Island" package, which includes additional Wi-Fi routers with coverage of 500 meters, allows individuals to use the network via their own devices or on the tablets provided.
The "Cellular Island" package has a GSM base station which can be solar-powered and integrated into a local mobile phone operator.
Eran Yoran, director of marketing and business development at Gilat, said the company chose Africa for the project because its main business and market is in Africa, where it has substantial satellite coverage and capacity.
He said the wide satellite coverage and capacity enables the company to offer affordable communication solutions in Africa. Yoran said in the last few years, there has been a drop in connectivity prices in Africa but that the decline is restricted to large cities.
"Seventy three (73) percent of people in Africa live in rural areas and so providing them with affordable services can profit us all," said Yoran via e-mail.
He said the company has no plans of extending the $1 per month communications package beyond Africa.
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