SatADSL defines itself as a business-oriented company. It is currently present in some forty countries and develops specific solutions for niche sectors, including hotels, microfinance institutions, schools, and rural radio broadcasting companies. Let’s discuss the strengths and strategies of the company with Thierry Eltges, CEO and co-founder of SatADSL.
What are the assets and specificities of SatADSL?
One of our competitive strengths is that we have our own service platform: the Cloud-Services Delivery Platform (C-SDP). This platform allows us to provide an offer that is unique from our competition today: any operator or Internet Service Provider (ISP) can now start a satellite business anywhere in the world and without infrastructure investments. You should know that it takes a small fortune to start such a business and the financial risk is high. Operators or ISPs wanting to start selling their own services have to invest in a satellite hub and enter into a contract to lease satellite capacity for several years.
How can SatADSL C-SDP can offer advantages that other companies cannot match?
First, there is no need to buy expensive equipment. Operators and ISPs who start their business using our services only need to buy satellite terminals that are relatively easy to install and use. You could say that SatADSL assumes the financial risk. Secondly, our C-SDP is connected to several teleport operators. This means that in case of an outage in one operator’s network, we can quickly switch to another operator.
How important is your network of local partner distributors?
This is certainly another of our strengths that sets us apart from our competitors. We actually have two types of partners: on the one hand, we work with a network of distributors ‒ mostly African companies with local VSAT and Internet licenses offering satellite services. They must be able to carry out installations and provide after-sales service themselves. SatADSL invoices the connectivity services – subscriptions or vouchers – to these distributors, who in turn invoice their own services to their end users. On the other hand, we work directly with end-user customers, including European companies active in Africa. We rely on the same network of distributors to do the technical installations, provide the licenses, etc. These distributors invoice us for their services and SatADSL invoices the end-user customer.
What is your strategy for the future of SatADSL?
We will continue to invest heavily in research and development. More than a third of our team is dedicated to innovation and we work extensively with the European Space Agency (ESA). We also want to expand geographically. We already have customers in Africa and the Middle East and we want to go to Asia and South America. This is, by the way, another reason why we invest so much in our C-SDP: we want to be able to provide both global connectivity and multi-technology capacity. It is part of our “horizontal” business model to encourage cooperation with teleport and satellite operators. This model challenges the “vertical” model endorsed by some large satellite operators to the benefit of the end customer, who can enjoy an optimal service at the lowest price.
Does this mean that the satellite capacity available on the market will increase significantly in the coming years?
Absolutely! On all five continents, more and more companies and operators are investing in new satellite technologies. Our goal is to continue developing our C-SDP to make it a truly open platform, including all technologies, satellites, frequency bands and operators. This will allow us to continue providing the best solutions using the best available technologies at the best price. The satellite market is currently undergoing major changes and very large projects are under study. For example, Google wants to launch 800 satellites into low orbit. Facebook also wants to be present in the stratosphere. This involves many different technologies, sometimes even beyond satellite technology. And we need to be ready!
What else can be said about the technological developments?
Until now, geostationary satellites are mostly used as communication satellites. They circle 36,000 km above the Earth’s equator at a fixed position and use spot beams to cover an entire continent. This technology requires very large receiving antennas and powerful antenna amplifiers, leading to very high costs. As a result, the main technological evolution today is to increase the frequency and to narrow the beams with high-throughput satellites (HTS) to 30 to 50 small spot beams, instead of one large spot beam. This technology makes it possible to concentrate power in a limited area and to have more capacity available at a lower price. But there is only room for a few hundred satellites on this specific orbit arc and the orbital positions are allocated to each country depending on its size. This is one of the reasons why several operators are preparing to launch mega-constellations of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, to which our C-SDP will also be able to connect in the future.