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Issue 7: Developing Countries

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

Emmanuel Adugu, Kwasi Boateng, Don Flournoy, Eric Gavua, Wencelous Kaswoswe, and Miao Zhang

Download the full paper in PDF (544 KB)


Developing countries are actively implementing satellite data networks, and have undertaken policy reforms to facilitate such networks. This research examines how regulatory changes have resulted in the removal of barriers relating to the deployment of access technologies and growth in connectivity, especially in VSAT installations for low cost Internet access. In addition, this research seeks to identify the socio-economic impact of emerging data network applications in government, business, health and education. In some cases, government offices have been the driver of change; in other cases, businesses have been the ones to initiate and press these developments forward.

As data applications have come of age over the last 15 years, satellite technologies that support data networks have become more robust, more flexible and less costly. VSAT technologies, having been used for years to complement terrestrial business networks, have now caught on for global delivery of interactive video, Internet and multimedia services. Internet distribution is already a major revenue stream for the commercial satellite industry.[1]

This study focuses on the communications policy, regulatory environment and industry performance of four countries: Brazil, China, India and Israel. Although the study began with the goal of gathering information that African decision-makers could use in the successful deployment of VSAT networks in African countries, this research will be instructive for other countries as well.

Criteria for Selecting the Case Study Countries

The case study countries will each: 1) have a satellite communication industry sub-sector; 2) posses more than one telecommunications and media service providers; 3) have embarked upon communication policy and regulatory reforms; 4) have per capita Gross Domestic Product purchasing power parity between $2,000- $10,000 or above; 5) have industrial production growth rates of not less than one and a half percent; and 6) they will have entered into cooperative agreements for data exchange.

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The per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) purchasing power parity for the countries chosen for the study are: Ghana - $2,100 (2002), Israel - $20,000 (2001), Brazil - $7,400 (2000), China - $4,300 (2001) and India - $2,500 (2001).[2]

This report is organized as follows:

  • A: Introduction
  • B: VSAT Technology
  • C: Country Case Studies
  • D: Lessons for Africa
  • E: Conclusion


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VSAT stands for "Very Small Aperture Terminal" and refers to receive/transmit terminals installed at dispersed sites connecting to a central hub via satellite using small (0.6 to 3.8 meter) diameter antenna dishes. VSAT technology represents a cost effective solution for users seeking an independent communications network connecting a large number of geographically dispersed sites.

VSAT networks offer value-added satellite-based services capable of supporting LAN, Internet and other data services, as well as voice/fax communications. VSATS can provide fast, dependable public and private network communications solutions.

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Until now, these systems operate in the Ku-band and C-band frequencies. Ku-band based networks are used primarily in Europe and North America and utilize the smaller sizes of VSAT antennas. C-band is used extensively in Asia, Africa and Latin America but requires a larger antenna. Ka-band VSAT implementation is in the offing and promises higher capacity transport and even smaller terminals.

VSAT network configurations can be point-to-point, point-to-multipoint or on demand networks. These systems can connect many sites or just a few. As prices have come down, network reach via satellite coverage has gone up. Some VSAT networks now comprise as many as several hundred or even thousands of sites.[3]

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


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