Satellite Space Key to Expanding African TV Footprint

While industry players across the continent are focused on the forthcoming DTT migration, satellite operators continue to play a vital role for broadcasters looking to reach African audiences.

“If you look at the satellite space today, there are more than 2,000 channels — more than double the terrestrial figures,” said Christoph Limmer of Eutelsat Communications.

Limmer noted that the space has grown dramatically since 2011, when he estimates there were fewer than 1,000 satellite channels broadcasting across the continent. Today, Eutelsat alone distributes more than 1,100 channels from its satellites.

The company is investing heavily in Africa, which by next year will receive direct coverage from around a quarter of Eutelsat’s fleet.

In October the company announced its plans to launch a new-generation High Throughput Satellite in 2019 that will set new standards for satellite broadband in Africa.

The move will broaden Eutelsat’s African footprint, following on the heels of its recent announcement to partner with Facebook in delivering broadband services to much of sub-Saharan Africa from the end of 2016.

The partnership, which is part of Facebook’s internet.org initiative, promises to improve connectivity in rural areas, which are underserved by traditional fixed and mobile networks.

It highlights the advantages for satellite companies like Eutelsat, which has been present in Africa for more than 15 years.

In 2000, the company supported the launch of pay-TV giant DStv, owned by South Africa’s MultiChoice, and it was chosen in 2013 to provide capacity for Tanzania’s Azam TV, one of the continent’s fastest growing pay-TV platforms.

Limmer pointed out that for all the gains made in recent years in rolling out terrestrial broadband across Africa, significant infrastructure challenges remain.

“Knowing that IPTV and cable … have a limited role in Africa for various reasons, it will be satellite that will be driving the continent,” he said. “Satellite will be the only infrastructure that can deliver multi-channel content and products.”

Still, despite the significant growth witnessed by Eutelsat, Limmer says hurdles in content delivery across Africa remain.

“The last mile, the connection between where you sell your product and you get it connected to the consumer, is something that still needs to be significantly improved,” he said.

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