Mobile African spectrum land-grab could threaten vital services, says report

euroconsultA spectrum grab in Africa by the global wireless industry could undercut the continent’s economies, and pose a threat social and public safety services by disrupting mission-critical satellite services, according to a study by Euroconsult for the European Space Agency.

Euroconsult, looking at three individual country markets – Angola, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – said to be representative of southern, western and central Africa respectively, found that, in addition to the millions of consumers who rely on C-band television, the wireless, banking and finance, energy production, civil aviation, and government sectors were particularly reliant on satellite networks using C-band spectrum.

In Angola, the study found that C-band-based VSAT services were vital for the local oil industry, which accounts for most of government revenue. In Nigeria, use of C-band is central to the country’s TV industry, with the country’s 11 million TV households being largely reliant on C-band capacity, principally for contribution to earth stations, according to the study.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, satellite remains a primary option to connect a large part of mobile networks, and ISPs are currently using C-band capacity as primary backbone network for International connectivity, the study said.

“These findings stand in stark contrast to claims made by representatives of the wireless industry which, regardless of the consequences, are attempting to seize C-band for their own use,” said David Hartshorn, Secretary General of the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), the London-based global association of the satellite communications industry.

“C-band communications are being represented by wireless manufacturers from developed countries to be of declining importance, but that is clearly not true in Africa, most of Asia, Latin America and other regions where conditions are fundamentally different than in South Korea, Japan, and Sweden. In particular, C-band communications are part of the bedrock of daily life and economic activity in developing countries.”

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