Vodacom believes direct-to-mobile will enhance their satellite connectivity by expanding rural access.
Chief Technology Officer, Dejan Kastelic called universal mobile coverage via satellite a potential “game-changer,” enabling 100% regional reach.
“With partnerships between Vodacom and the satellite providers, we can provide 100% coverage. So, satellite can play a big role in the transformation of Africa because we still have a lot of areas that are unconnected,” said Kastelic.
Even though current solutions remain expensive for rural users, Vodacom already utilizes satellites to connect remote areas by beaming signals to towers.
Driving down prices motivated Vodacom partnerships with Amazon’s Project Kuiper and AST SpaceMobile. Vodafone owns AST stakes, wagering on direct mobile transmission.
Kastelic argued regulators should back local operator partnerships over newcomers in spectrum allocation. As infrastructure investors and job creators, established carriers merit support in providing inclusive connectivity.
“We have seen in the last few years that the cost of deploying a satellite constellation has dropped dramatically,” said Ryan van den Bergh, managing executive for technology strategy, architecture, spectrum and assurance at Vodacom Group.
“This decline in costs is good news for consumers who will not want to be charged extra for either being from or travelling to a remote region,” said Van den Bergh.
While satellites and terrestrial networks play complementary roles, spectrum policy could determine if collaborators become competitors. Vodacom believes priorities should go to existing in-country contributors.
By teaming satellites with widespread tower infrastructure, universal low-cost rural access seems attainable. Vodacom is urging win-win partnerships between space and ground to close the coverage gap.