body top image
Issue 7: Developing Countries - Lessons for Africa

Politics and Technology Converge: Case Studies on the Effects of Regulatory Reform on VSAT Adoption in Developing Countries


Download the full paper in PDF (544 KB)


The country case studies illustrate the influence of regulatory reforms on the deployment of satellite technologies. It is worth noting that irrespective of GDP levels in these countries, VSATS have an important role to play in social and economic development. Developed countries like the U.S. with high GDPs allowed blanket licensing of VSATS long ago and seeing the benefits in business, government, health, education and other sectors. It can also be observed that developing countries like India with low GDPs that are increasingly undergoing policy reforms in favor of VSAT adoption are seeing substantial benefits from their use.

Technological advances tend to be hampered when regulatory regimes do not favor them. The country case studies show that this is exactly the case with VSAT technologies. The key to VSAT adoption has been an environment fostering economic growth accompanied by supportive regulation. This research raises important questions for developing countries, especially those countries in Africa whose governments have required that each VSAT terminal be licensed in addition to the licensing of network operators.

In Africa, high tariffs for international companies operating in-country or across national boundaries will continue to hamper growth in the VSAT market, thus slowing economic growth as well. There is a need to streamline VSAT licensing and reconsider the role of tariffs as a way to stimulate local economies and provide for easier information exchange. This is something that can be done among African countries that will have a chance at enhancing socio-economic development.

The diverse terrain of Africa coupled with the unreliable and high cost of telephone infrastructure pushes planners to think about alternatives. In many cases, the satellite solution is the only alternative for getting interactive communication out to an almost unlimited number of geographically dispersed sites or from these sites to other locations.

VSAT technologies become necessary given the tremendous demand for Internet access, multimedia programming and other essential services by businesses, educational institutions, government agencies and non- governmental organizations. The deployment of the VSAT technology can facilitate the growing climate of democratization in Africa. As the case in India reveals, positive VSAT sector reforms can also pave the way for e-governance. This will increase participation by civil society and make governance more effective and efficient.

With respect to business, the experience of each of the case study countries, especially the Brazilian experience, shows that a favorable regulatory climate can have a positive impact on commercial development. Entrepreneurs and investors in Africa often are hampered by the lack of reliable and affordable telecommunications services. Policies that encourage investment in satellite-based telecommunications can help to overcome these limitations.

African countries often have the bulk of their populations living in rural areas where terrestrial telephone lines are scarce or unavailable. India has faced this situation. Prudent VSAT regulatory reforms and government initiatives have led to several major demonstration programs in which satellites are used to connect rural populations to major city centers. The multiplier effect of these initiatives is the growth of such rural businesses as Internet cafes and telecenters. This can go a long way in helping to breach the information gap between rural and urban folk in Africa.


Bringing VSAT services to the developing world can be greatly facilitated through policy reforms. The country case studies illustrate the extent to which government offices can play an important role in opening the door to telecommunications development. China and India are each good examples. In strong private-sector economies like Brazil and Israel, private enterprises play a larger role. When government and business work together, the positive results are obvious.


  1. David Hartshorn and Anina Selve. VSATs: Linking the Last 1000 Miles. Sustainable Developments International. Retrieved on 9 November 2003 from:
  2. Country Profiles, LexisNexis Academic Universe. Retrieved on 20 October 2003 from:
  3. The above description of the way VSAT technology works was retrieved from: on November 24, 2003.
  4. International Telecommunications Union,
  5. ITU World Telecommunication Development Report 2002: Reinventing Telecoms- World Telecommunications Indicators. pA-66.
  6. Ghana: Rapid Growth in Internet use despite cost constraints. Retrieved from: htpp:// on December 12, 2003.
  7. Quaynor, N.,Tevie, W., Bulley, A, ( 1997).Expansion of the Internet Backbone in Ghana. Retrieved from: on December 12, 2003.
  8. Expansion of the Internet Backbone in Ghana. Retrieved from: on December 12, 2003.
  9. Lin, C. (2000). Satellite communications. In (Eds) August E. Grant & Jennifer Harman Meadows. Communications Technology Update. Boston, Massachusetts: Focal Press, pp-247-256.
  10. Maral, G. (1995) as cited in Jackson, M.E. et al, (2002), Real-time GPS data transition using VSAT technology, GPS Solutions, Vol. 5, No 4, pp. 10-11.
  11. Busy Internet Opens In Ghana and Looks to Open Elsewhere in Africa. Retrieved from: http://www.balancing on December 12, 2003.
  12. Ecoband is a joint Ghanaian and European venture.
  13. IP Planet, Company Profile brochure, 2002.
  14. Maral, G. (1995) as cited in Jackson, M.E. et al, (2002), Real-time GPS data transition using VSAT technology, GPS Solutions, Vol. 5, No 4, pp. 10.
  15. Features and Benefits:
  16. Excerpts from an interview Kwasi Boateng had with Mark Davis on 19 August 2003 in Accra Ghana. Boateng is a PhD student at Ohio University conducting research for his dissertation.
  17. Kwasi Boateng, 19 August 2003.
  18. Kwasi Boateng, 4 August 2003.
  19. Kwasi Boateng. Satellite Communication in Ghana-Challenges and Prospects. A paper included in Issue No.7, The Online Journal of Space Communication, Janauary, 2004.
  20. Kwasi Boateng, 4 August 2003.
  21. SAT 3 is a South African and Portuguese initiative, involving about 42 other African countries that have invested in the laying of fiber optic cables around Africa aimed at linking Africa to the global information grid through Portugal. A similar project that started earlier, Africa One, was a failurer.
  22. Kwasi Boateng, 8 August 2003.
  23. Dyson, E., Gilder, G., Keyworth, G., & Toffler, A. (1994, August). Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta of the Knowledge Age. Washington, D.C.: Progress and Freedom Foundation.
  24. GS Telecom Installs VSAT for Gold Fields Ghana Head Office. January 25, 2003.Retrieved on 9 November 2003 from
  25. Liang Xiongjian and Zhang Jing. A Summary of Telecommunications Reform in China China. Global Communications Newsletter. October 2001.
  26. Liang Xiongjian and Zhang Jing. A Summary of Telecommunications Reform in China. Global Communications Newsletter. October 2001.
  27. China's Telecom Market: Change and Competition. New Telecom Quarterly. Retrieved on 24 October 2003 from:
  28. Country Commerce China, Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved on 13 October 2003 from:
  29. Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. November 2000. China's Space Activities. First Edition 2000. Retrieved on 24 October 2003 from China_Space_Activities.pdf.
  30. Country Commerce China .Regulatory/market alerts--China February 2003 Retrieved on 21 October 2003 from:
  31. Briefs. Communications News, August 1993, Academic Search Premier.
  32. Wide area networks: Briefs Communications News; November 1995, Academic Search Premier. Retrieved on the 21 October 2003 from:
  33. Jitong Communications. Retrieved on 1 November 2003 from
  35. China's Telecom Market: Change and Competition. New Telecom Quarterly. Retrieved on 24 October 2003 from:
  36. Faraway thoughts. Economist; January 7, 1995, Academic Search Premier: Retrieved on 21 October 2003 from:
  37. VIPERSAT Networks Announces China Telemedicine Project.
  38. VSAT sector presses for reforms to stay afloat, Yahoo. Retrieved 15th October 2003 from:
  39. International Telecommunications Union, Telecommunication Development Bureau ITU-D Study Groups. Draft Report on Satellite Regulation in Developing Countries. Document 1/079-E14, July 2003.
  40. VSAT sector presses for reforms to stay afloat Yahoo. Retrieved 15th October 2003 from:
  41. The Tribune, Online Edition, August 20, 2000. Retrieved 12th October 2003 from: http//
  42. Satellite communication soars over terrestrial links, Financial Express, September 17, 2002, LexisNexis. Retrieved from: http//
  43. Avina Lobo, Maharashtra: In tune with the times? India News. June 30, 2001 Retrieved 18th October, 2003 from:
  44. Ibid.
  45. Inauguration of Karnataka Telemedicine Project, Space Daily. April 21, 2002, Retrieved 18th October, 2003 from:
  46. Satellite Communication soars over terrestrial links, Business Industry News. September 2002. Retrieved 18th October, 2003 from: industry.htm.
  47. VSAT Service Providers Beam the Right Signal, Express Computer. 2nd September, 2002, Retrieved 18th September 2003 from: indtrend1.shtml.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Manas Bhattacharya, IES Deputy Director General (Finance), Telecom Sector in India: Vision 2020, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Background Paper submitted to the Committee on India: Vision 2020, 2002. Retrieved 22tnd September 2003 from: 1_bg2020.doc.
  50. The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators April-June 2003, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Retrieved 22tnd September 2003 from:
  51. Hudson, Heather E. When Telephones Reach the Village, Norwood, NJ: 1984; Hudson Heather E. Economic and Social Benefits of Rural Telecommunications: A Report to the World Bank, Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1995; Saunders, Robert, Jeremy Warford, and Bjorn Wellenius. Telecommunications and Economic Development, 2nd edition. Baltimore: John's Hopkins University Press, 1994.
  52. With Satellite Technology, Banco do Brazil Gains Communications Capabilities. Hughes Network Systems. June 1, 2001,
  53. GM do Brasil taps into the Power of Broadband, Hughes Network Systems, June 1, 2001,
  54. Brazilians Get Two-Way Satellite Connection to the Internet. Space Daily. May 14, 2001. Retrieved from on November 4, 2003.
  55. Gilat Delivers Broadband to Brazil. 2nd Quarter, 2001, Retrieved Nov. 23, 2003 from: Growth in VSAT Sales in Brazil. April 2003, Retrieved on November 4, 2003.
  56. PanAmSat Receives Authorization to Operate PAS-9 in Brazil, March 25, 2003, PanAmSat Press Release, Retrieved on December 12, 2003 from:
  57. Gilat Helps Brazil To Communicate With 3, 200 VSAT Internet Nodes, Oct 29, 2002, SpaceDaily, Retrieved December 12, 2003 from:
  58. VSAT Criteria. CITEL, Inter-American Telecommunication Commission. Retrieved from
  59. Hughes Network Systems Launches DirectWay Broadband by Satellite Service in Brazil; Always on, Highly Available, Scalable, Two-Way Solution, Newswire Association, Inc. May 22, 2003.
  60. Ibid.
  61. PanAmSat Expands In Brazil through Multi-Year Agreement with Telespazio. PAS-1R Satellite Will Support Telespazio's VSAT Services Throughout Latin America. Retrieved from on November 13, 2003.
  62. Information Society Regulatory Developments in Israel, Master Report, April 2000.
  63. Neil Gandal, "New Horizons: Telecommunications Policy in Israel in the 21st Century," Unpublished paper for the Pinhas Sapir Center for Development, September 2002.
  64. Telecommunications Industry in Israel, Ministry of Communication. telecom1_in_israel_11.00.pdf.
  65. Telecommunications Industry in Israel. Ministry of Communications. August 2002.
  66. Telecommunications Companies in Israel, Israel Science and Technology Homepage, retrieved December 12, 2003 from:
  68. Ibid.
  69. David Hartshorn. The Global VSAT Forum Launches Global Campaign to Advocate Use of Satellite-Based Network Solutions.
  70. Ibid.

Ghana | China | India | Brazil | Israel | Lessons for Africa


filler image
body bottom image