By Samuel Sanya & Billy Rwothungeyo
KAMPALA - A new satellite internet service has been launched, cutting connection costs by up to 18 times, translates into a reduction of prices and increase in competition, quality and internet penetration.
Although Uganda is served by two undersea fibre optic cables, internet penetration has stalled at 12.5% with connectivity via mobile phone growing rapidly at an estimated 80% annually.
“This is an essential service since we are a landlocked country. When fibre optic was introduced, the price of internet dropped by 30%. I expect that prices will drop further as competition increases to attract more people,” Godfrey Mutabazi, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) boss said.
He made the comments at the launch of the Yahsat internet service, a merger between the Abu Dhabi-based satellite operator, Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJSC (Yahsat) and truIT Uganda at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
Mutabazi added that the new service will double existing internet speeds while improving quality of service.
He was keen to point out that the new technology is easy to deploy.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda attended the function.
Rugunda observed that the satellite service will increase internet access in hard-to-reach areas which should improve commerce, education, health care and financial services to boost the economy.
“The IT sector has been vital in its role as an enabler, ensuring equitable access to information in both urban and rural areas…because of that the government regards the ICT sector as critical to develop the country,” he said.
Wesley Alexander, Yahsat’s country manager for Africa noted from research findings that a 1% increase in satellite internet penetration translates into a 10% increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Approximately 12.5% of Ugandans have internet access, compared to neighbors Kenya and Tanzania at 25.9% and 11% respectively, according to 2010 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reports.
Uganda is currently served by The East African Marine System (TEAMS) and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), covering a 17,000km distance at a cost of more than $650m (sh1.7 trillion).
Kevin Viret, the Yahsat Africa regional director noted that the new technology will complement fibre optic cable to minimize down time, and added that KA-band satellite service has already recorded up to 40% monthly growth in the US.
To access the new service, users will need an outdoor unit and modem that will be linked to the Y1B satellite, fitted with internet acceleration capabilities.