UAE-based satellite communications services provider Yahsat is gearing up to launch to its Yah C lick internet service in South Sudan. The service will be launched 'soon', according to firm, in partnership with local internet service provider RCS-Communications . This is a welc ome development for South Sudan, which has one of the least developed broadband infrastructures in the region.
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|Map Of Eastern Horn of Africa, 2012|
The government of South Sudan is keen to build up the country's ICT sector as part of a wider strategy for economic growth and development. High-speed data networks are central to that plan, but many years of underinvestment due to the civil war with Sudan and limited economic activity has left the country without the necessary infrastructure to build a viable ICT sector. BMI notes that a number of options have been touted since the country gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, including an invitation from the East Africa Community (EAC) to join the sub-regional fibre-optic network and plans, revealed in August 2012, to tap a Chinese loan to finance the roll-out of a terrestrial fibre-optic cable network to link the country to submarine cable systems through neighbouring countries ( see 'Fibre-Optic Initiative Will Boost Internet Services', August 31 2012).
Apart from government-led initiatives, some private telecoms service providers, notably mobile operator Zain and broadband service provider iBurst, have also announced plans to invest in broadband infrastructure over the next few years. Yahsat is the latest firm to announce a solution for the country's underserved internet market. The firm's YahClick internet solution relies on the high-speed ka-band satellite internet service from its two satellites Y1A and Y1B, launched in April 2011 and April 2012 respectively. YahClick is already serving around 28 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
BMI believes the YahClick service is a welcome alternative to the proposed fibre-optic network deployments, which may take many years to complete. Furthermore, the high cost of deployment may also limit network coverage to a few areas in major towns and cities. By contrast, installation of VSAT's for the YahClick service will be much quicker', while its reliance on satellite connectivity means it will not be geographically restricted. That said, BMI notes that the biggest downside risk to the YahClick service is cost. The government reportedly pays around EUR20,000 a month for internet access through VSAT satellites. This is uneconomical for the government and out of reach for most individual users, leading to calls for the development of fibre-optic networks. Yahsat claims its YahClick service is reasonably priced, even for rural users. We believe the affordability of this service in South Sudan will be a key factor in its uptake and long-term competitiveness, especially when alternative access technologies come on stream.