London — Triple Play (voice Internet and TV services) holds out the prospect of faster household growth for both broadcasters and telcos in Africa. But thus far, legal restrictions on supplying one or more of the different elements have stymied attempts to get it off the ground. However, Eutelsat has pitched itself into this search for the holy grail of growth with its IP Easy product. Senior research analyst Sylvain Béletre talks to Eutelsat's Gaethan Donlap Kouanga, sales and marketing manager for central Africa and to Jean-François Fremaux, Director of market development at Eutelsat.
In Africa so far, only a few players like Zuku from Wananchi group have made the breakthrough to provide legal African Triple Play.
At the last Satcom 2012, Eutelsat announced that its new 'IP Easy' broadband platform extends high-speed internet access to residential and home office users as well as small and medium-sized enterprises across sub-Saharan Africa. Delivering downlink speeds of up to 4Mbps, the service can be configured to support VoIP and satellite reception of TV channels in dual and triple play modes. Since then, the company has started rolling out the solution within its distribution network.
Q. What is IP Easy background history?
A. Eutelsat has been providing broadband services in Africa since 2003, principally targeting users with high bandwidth requirements (oil and gas sector, financial services, public agencies), but with IP Easy, we are now reaching a new level. Launched at Satcom Africa in May 2012, IP Easy was built to extend high-speed Internet access to residential and home office users as well as small and medium-sized enterprises across sub-Saharan Africa. The service can also be configured to support VOIP. In addition, users can also bundle their Internet access with TV channels reception via a single antenna, allowing them to benefit from a triple play mode. Combining the strengths of Ku-band capacity on the recently-launched Eutelsat 16A satellite with Newtec's successful Sat3Play technology, IP Easy is available across Africa, from the Gulf of Guinea to Madagascar.
The IP Easy hub is located at Eutelsat's Skylogic Mediteraneo teleport, which provides broadband services for users in Africa thanks to its location in the south of Europe and its direct access to the internet backbone via key Points of Presence in Europe.
Q. Who should buy IP Easy?
A. Our objective with IP Easy is to diversify the product range so that residential and home office users as well as small and medium-sized enterprises have access to a product adapted to their needs. Our targeted market also includes schools, local African governments, NGOs, distance working, prospecting and mobile teams.
Q. Is IP Easy that easy to set up?
A. We wanted to provide a service that would enable its users to self-install the equipment. This is why Newtec's proven Sat3Play platform and its system's Point&Play facility were selected. It works with a 1 meter dish and a PC-connected modem. A hearing aid helps align the dish more easily and there is no need to configure the modem. The main advantage is that end users can autonomously install the complete system with no specific qualification needed or expensive tooling. For maximum bandwidth efficiency, the terminal incorporates numerous advanced features such as DVB-S2 modulation and coding, rain fade countermeasures, end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms and state-of-the-art acceleration and compression technologies. The kit is available via a strong network of local service providers.
Q. What are IP Easy's main benefits for clients?
A. IP Easy responds to pent-up demand for broadband from the many users beyond terrestrial networks in Africa. Without using great amounts of energy (less than 1 Watt), the service can reliance on local energy sources such as solar energy via solar panels. It delivers downlink speeds of up to 4Mbps, irrespective of your location within EUTELSAT 16A's coverage, from the Gulf of Guinea to Madagascar. It can be configured to support VOIP and satellite reception of TV channels in triple play mode. The installation of the 1 meter dish and modem connected to a PC is so simple that it can be performed without the need for costly specialised installers, and the terminal requires no configuration at all, further reducing the initial investment for each new site.
Q. Right now, where in Africa can clients use IP Easy?
A. The solution has a trans-continental coverage from Senegal to Madagascar. We are initiating the service in countries around the Gulf of Guinea, places with high density of population and significant revenues per capita, and in Madagascar where the lack of telecoms infrastructures creates a real opportunity for the part of the population with adequate revenues.
Q. where are you rolling out next?
A. We will progressively extend IP easy to other African regions covered by Eutelsat 16A. We are also planning to deploy the service on other Eutelsat satellites in operation or planned to be launched in order to cover the entire African continent.
Q. Which African countries have the largest potential?
A. We are looking at Nigeria, Cameroun, Ghana, DRC, Benin, Ivory Coast with interest because of the high population density.
Q. On the marketing side, are you encountering any country barriers?
A. In many targeted countries, most of the required equipment is free of license and transmit because of very low irradiated power. In other cases, licensing issues are solved by our distributors building partnerships with national companies which have all the necessary licenses to operate.
Q. Which TV content does IP Easy support?
A. Buying a simple DVB-S2 set-top box - usually on sale from USD 100 - will allow IP Easy users to receive through their dish 25 free-to-air French speaking channels. These are national channels from Cameroun, Benin, Gabon, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Senegal, Congo, Burkina Faso and Togo, broadcasted via Eutelsat 16A . Further work is currently being undertaken on Eutelsat 16° East neighbourhood's to enrich television offer, including in the pay-TV area.
Q. Which distributors to talk to in order to buy the service?
A. Many distributors within EUTESLAT 16A's footprint are currently finilasing the intregration of IP Easy into their service portfolio. Afrique Télécom already sells the service under the "SpaceDSL" brand , from 29€ VAT incl. (512 kbps/ 500 MB) to 120€ VAT incl. (2048kbps/4GB) .
Q. What is the pricing like for the kit and monthly subscription?
A. Pricing levels are set by our network of distributors and are competitive compared to ADSL subscription fees in Europe.
Q. Who do you contact at Eutelsat and within your distribution network to partner/resell/purchase the solution?
A. Please refer to our website here. IP Easy is already commercialised by Afrique Télécom under the "SpaceDSL" brand. Afrique Télécom sells the service from 29€ VAT incl. 512 kbps/ 500 MB to 120€ VAT incl. 2048kbps/4GB. Other distributors are currently finilasing the intregration of IP Easy into their service portfolio.
Eutelsat has confirmed it will be joining Africa's telcos, media professionals, broadcasters and film-makers at the Broadcast, Film and Music Africa (BFMA) conference to be held in Nairobi over 10-11 July. The company will present its offering for Africa including IP Easy.