The African continent comprises over 50 countries that together count over 1.2 billion inhabitants. 60% of Africans live in rural and remote areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihood. As the fastest growing continent in the world, Africa has attracted huge foreign investment that has delivered undersea cables around Africa, fibre rollout in coastal countries and mobile technology evolving from 2G to 3G in almost all countries with 4G implementation underway. This investment has still not been enough to provide continent-wide coverage to connect the 60% of Africans living outside urban centers.
Satellite services are available and relied on extensively across Africa for virtually all forms of connectivity, from lifeline to urban broadband. Satellites cover the whole African continent, providing signals that are robust enough to withstand the continent's periodic equatorial rainfall. Significantly, satellite is often the only chance for connectivity in many parts of Africa that are beyond the reach of terrestrial technologies. They enable everyday services such as TV reception in urban and rural areas as well as a host of other services such as banking, education, healthcare, aviation safety, maritime, humanitarian, government, rural telephony and vitally: long-distance fixed (microwave point-to-point) networks that form the infrastructure for the many terrestrial networks in Africa.
Given the very real reliance on satellite services across Africa, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) and its sub-regional inter-governmental groups such as CRASA, EACO, and WATRA have been an important voice in the international arena to safeguard satellite spectrum. Without satellite, hundreds of services would be disrupted and millions of lives would be affected. Satellite operators continue to invest in new high-throughput satellite systems to enhance the capacity available over Africa and to bring immediate and direct digital services to unconnected towns and villages. These next generation satellites are also however the key to extending mobile broadband across the continent - something that can only be achieved if satellite and terrestrial technologies collaborate, each one of them using its own spectrum to maximize its contribution.