Telkom SA -Vsat Services within the Africa Continent

Telkom SA -Vsat Services within the Africa Continent

by Roger Chiume, Telkom SA International Business


Major political changes worldwide and the demise of the apartheid system of government in South Africa have exposed South Africa to the hitherto inaccessible markets. With this, Telkom SA has come face to face with as much opportunities as there are pitfalls However, Telkom has come to terms with the fact that its continued existence and growth lies in its involvement with the other African telecommunication administrations and operators. In our continent, lack of financial muscle places severe constraints on various telcos' ability to establish adequate and modern telecommunications infrastructure. Telkom therefore makes some of its telecommunications infrastructure available for use by other African telcos with the hope of jointly uplifting the continent's telematics service provision within the shortest possible time. In this regard, Telkom's offering are the SPACESTREAM and INFOSPACE satellite based solutions.

A futuristic look into an African Information Superhighway is also briefly touched.


Telkom's corporatisation process and the possibility of privatisation has led to a drastic cultural change within the organisation to adopt a market driven and customer focused attitude.

Multinational corporations in Sub-Sahara Africa are increasingly demanding technologies that improve communications and data transfer ability between their various scattered branch offices throughout the continent. Telkom has therefore identified satellite based solutions to speedily address these needs. Telkom's SPACESTREAM and INFOSPACE provide network solutions to business data networks for major companies and/or to the backbone of a basic telecommunications service in rural areas.


2.1 The mission:

The SPACESTREAM mission is to provide reliable, managed and cost-effective satellite networks in order to ensure efficient on-line wide area network communications.

2.2 What is SPACESTREAM:
SPACESTREAM is based on VSAT technology and has been adopted by Telkom SA as a solution to telematic service requirements throughout Sub Sahara Africa. Telkom owns and operates two full - service SPACESTREAM shared hubs based at the

Hartebeesthoek Satellite Earth Station near Pretoria. Three more hubs are planned, two for Hartebeesthoek and one for Cape Town. The SPACESTREAM footprint covers the whole of Sub-Sahara Africa.


Telkom is able to offer through SPACESTREAM X. 25, Frame Relay, ISDN and dedicated leased line services to multinational corporations in Africa and elsewhere for their electronic messaging, data transfer and Value Added Services. Telkom has close to 500 private leased circuits to African states providing narrowband and broadband connectivity via satellite and terrestrial links. This number can easily double within the shortest possible time with improved network provision. The IPSS (X.25) service exists between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Though not yet established with other African countries, Telkom offers the public e-Mail service called Telkom 400, which is based on the international X400 standard. This public network service enables companies to link their private e-Mail networks to those of other national and international e-Mail networks. There are currently 24 Telkom 400 international connections providing e- Mail and EDI services.

Examples of business applications that SPACESTREAM supports are:

		-	Airline and Hospitality Industry
			*	Reservation scheduling
			*	Credit verification
			*	Weather monitoring

			*	Flight schedules

		-	Banking industry

			*	Electronic Mail

			*	LAN interworking
			*	Automated teller machine (ATM) transactions

			*	File transfers

		-	Insurance and financial industry

			*	Real-time market quotations

			*	Claims processing

			*	Electronic - Mail

			*	Marketing and training information

		-	Retail industry:

			*	Credit card verification

			*	Electronic fund transfer at pos.

			*	Price updates


4.1 INFOSPACE mission:

INFOSPACE mission is to support economic development by increasing user access to education, training and information resources through the application of advanced communications technologies that generate significant cost savings and service improvements especially in areas with inadequate telecommunications infrastructure and funding.

4.2 What is INFOSPACE:

INFOSPACE is a solution that allows for multi-media applications by use of SPACE- STREAM infrastructure. It cost effectively delivers high quality voice, video, text and data information to the end-user.


Telkom's goal is to build, operate and maintain an efficient and effective regional and international telecommunications network to provide equitable access to education, training, and information resources to all communities in Sub-Sahara Africa.

4.4. The targeted market:

The market is all encompassing; private, educational, governmental, NGOs, business, urban and rural communities.


Telkom offers to all its sister African telcos the use of its vast SPACESTREAM (VSAT) resource based in South Africa. Furthermore, Telkom offers complete turnkey solutions, viz:

	*	network design and implementation.
	*	installation and maintenance.
	*	satellite transponder capacity engineering.
     *	shared or dedicated network operation and management.
     *	training.
	*	backup maintenance.
To date constructive bilateral negotiations have been undertaken between Telkom and telcos of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Swaziland regarding shared use of the Telkom's SPACESTREAM facility. In West Africa a major contract has been concluded to install, commission and manage a nationwide VSAT network using Telkom's shared hub.

5.1 Benefits to Africa

* Provision of leading-edge technology, of quality and reliable service to customers at little or no initial capital investment.

* Rapid VSAT solution rollout especially in areas where no appropriate infrastructure exists.

* Flexible solution - provides for multi-media application (video, voice, data, text)

* Offers capability of global service.

* Cost to customer not distance dependent (as for terrestrial networks ).

* Tailor-made solutions.

* Easily relocatable.

* Fully managed up to the port on customer premises.


The information superhighway concept is soon to be a reality whether or not we in Africa like it. It therefore is time for all African telcos to pool our resources together in order to respond to this challenge that threatens our very existence. Coordinated planning, upgrading and exploitation of our networks is the only strength at our disposal to fend off this threat. Telkom SA has a relatively developed telecommunications network within its borders. It also is upgrading to digital all its terrestrial links to neighbouring countries. Furthermore, Telkom has the optic fibre submarine cable, SAT- 2, linking South Africa to Europe planned as well is the SIT-1 submarine cable that will link South Africa to Australia. Together with its vast array of satellite dishes, South Africa is well positioned to provide adequate and reliable transit facilities to meet all Sub-Sahara African transit needs.

A pooled effort among all African telcos and RASCOM could lead to our very own information superhighway-THE AFRICAN TELEWAY- that may enhance development of our continent.

7.0 Conclusion

In this brief paper it has been shown that telematics service provision in Africa can be provided cost effectively through the use of satellite shared hub facility, and that the future of Africa lies in cooperation among various African telcos.

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.
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