Satellite broadband can deliver universal access

Satellite broadband can deliver universal access


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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Achieving universal Internet access is a lofty goal that many world economies are yet to achieve. Well documented are the benefits such as access to education, commerce and health services from the comfort of your home or office.

What is required is stable, consistent access with a reasonable amount of bandwidth so students and those who work from home can download and upload work materials, and stream content for learning, with little difficulty. Service, particularly in rural areas, is often unreliable and in some locations very limited or non-existent. The available service is often subject to theft and damage, with long periods of downtime for repairs.

The two significant telecommunications players have, over 20 years, built out extensive mobile data, copper and fibre-based broadband networks. Yet still, vast areas — particularly within rural Jamaica — remain with limited coverage. The Government has a massive task on its hands to encourage universal access, even though Jamaica's terrain makes it challenging to roll out the infrastructure. Mobile data services, although extended across most of Jamaica, still suffer from slow and inconsistent speeds as well as restricted in-building coverage, despite the improvements in technology.

One solution would be the provision of satellite-based broadband service across rural and remote locations across Jamaica. California-based ViaSat has been offering satellite-based broadband solutions for home and business for the past 30 years. Via-Sat-2 Satellite, launched in 2017, can achieve up to 100mbs download speed. The company's ViaSat-3 Satellite, set to be deployed in 2021, is expected to offer even faster connections. According to ViaSat's website, “The ViaSat-2 satellite was designed to advance global connectivity beyond what traditional telecom, wireless, cable or fibre could deliver, by bringing the fastest satellite speeds to some of the hardest-to-reach locations in North America. This second-generation high-capacity satellite significantly improved speeds, reduced costs, and expanded the footprint of satellite-enabled broadband services across North America, Central America and the Caribbean.” This service is therefore presumably accessible to Jamaica.

The advantage of this technology is that it can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of traditional fibre-based systems as there is no need to lay expensive fibre cables and associated equipment to transmit the service, to reach the most remote parts of Jamaica. Signals can be received from any location on Earth, regardless of how far you are from an Internet port for cable connection. In turn, this would facilitate a more cost-effective commercial proposition for a service provider. It would significantly enhance the study and work experience for those who work or live in remote or rural locations. It could also facilitate more community access points outside the commercial reach of the major players, as well as inner-city neighbourhoods, where financial constraints restrict access.

Locally, Ready TV with its ReadyNet broadband service, recently provided satellite broadband service to Little Bay Primary and Infant School in Westmoreland, a rural school that before the launch of this project had no access to the Internet.

In a recent edition of the Jamaica Observer, CEO of Ready TV, Chris Dehring, confirmed delivery of the service to remote and rural communities. “We are pleased to be able to deliver to Little Bay and principals like Mr King, who has worked tirelessly to deliver high-quality classes online,” he said.

Adding satellite broadband technology to Jamaica's Internet service mix, in underserved locations, will enable Jamaica to offer quality, high-performance access to all who require it. Achieving islandwide coverage will go a long way towards reducing the inequity in access that currently exists.


Gary Simms is project director & technology consultant at Cadence Jamaica Ltd. He may be contacted at or @cadencejamaica.

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