USOs - key to the digital divide

04 October 2021

GVF’s most recent geographical focus on Asia came with SatelliteAsia 2021, an anchor event of what is now called AsiaTechX 2021 (formerly known as ConnecTechAsia). GVF provided virtual conference content in the form of a short series of webinars exploring three important current themes, as listed below. This short series was the latest addition to the GVF main webinar programme which has now attracted in excess of 13,000 views, either live or on-demand from our archive which is accessible at https://gvf.org/webinars

If you missed the SatelliteAsia 2021 streamed content on 14 July you can still use the links below to catch-up on a wealth of analysis and explanation from a broad range of GVF’s member organisations, including (in alphabetical order): Arabsat; Comtech EF Data; Eutelsat; Gilat Satellite Networks; Hughes; Inmarsat; Intelsat; Kacific; Marlink; Optus; SES; and, ST Engineering.

Bridging the Divide: Enabling Affordable Business & Community Digital Connectivity
(https://gvf.org/webinar/bridging-the-divide-enabling-affordable-business-community-digital-connectivity/)

Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Ships: Satcoms-on-the-Move
(https://gvf.org/webinar/planes-trains-automobiles-ships-satcoms-on-the-move/)

Preparing for, and Responding to, the Inevitable Disaster: Satellite
(https://gvf.org/webinar/preparing-for-and-responding-to-the-inevitable-disaster-satellite/)

I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion in Bridging the Divide: Enabling Affordable Business & Community Digital Connectivity. Joined by representatives of Gilat Satellite Networks; Kacific Broadband Satellites; Optus; and, SES Networks the dialogue initially reflected that, long characterised only as an issue for low- and middle-income developing nations, the digital divide is today recognised – particularly as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic – as being of wider concern even for developed nations, which have their remote region connectivity gaps too and, indeed, sometimes their connectivity gaps are not necessarily so remote.

For developing nations the emphasis in bridging the divide must be on both the availability of connectivity and its affordability. Whereas, for developed countries the greater weight of concern relates to availability, less so on affordability.

Satellite has long been correctly seen as means of solving the connectivity problem as it can be deployed anywhere, and its coverage is ubiquitous, but there are many fundamental questions still needing answers as to the nature of the principal barriers to serving those on the wrong side of any digital divide.

Examples of these are:

Q: Is it true that satellite communications still too expensive for businesses, for consumers?

Q: What are the unique requirements of businesses on the other side of the divide, compared to the requirements of individuals?

Q: Is there a role for satellites to provide solutions to businesses and communities on the other side of the divide in urban settings?

Q: What relevant developments in terms of services, products, and costs will we see in the next five years?
Q: Will 5G networks help bridge or widen the divide?

Q: LEO and MEO systems offer lower latencies compared to GEO systems. Is that important when providing connectivity to businesses and communities on the other side of the divide?

Q: Community Wi-Fi can bring affordable connectivity to remote and often relatively poor communities. What other services can similarly address the needs of such communities?

Q: Do universal service funds and the like help bridge the divide?

A review of the panellists responses to this last question featured in Via Satellite’s ‘Satellite Today’ entitled Satellite Players Say Government USOs Key to Bridge Digital Divide, highlighting the importance of satellite operators and network providers working with global governments to bridge the connectivity gaps of remote areas. Satellite connectivity is known to be an attractive option for bringing connectivity to areas that can’t access terrestrial networks, yet there are still a number of hurdles to deploy satellite.

https://www.satellitetoday.com/broadband/2021/07/14/satellite-players-say-government-usos-key-to-bridge-digital-divide