Opinion

C-Band: A catalyst for African Development

C-band spectrum is widely used throughout Africa to provide essential connectivity and capacity, particularly in remote or rural locations. This critical connectivity supports the growth of Africa’s GDP and delivers services that enhance the lives of millions

C-band’s importance to the people of Africa and the satellite sector cannot be denied, but other parties seek access to the band. The International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) community is targeting C-band in its quest for more spectrum, and an agenda item will address this request at the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in November 2015.

The operation of IMT services in C-band has the potential to cause excessive levels of harmful interference and might preclude future use of this band for satellite services. This could have a drastic impact on communications and critical services throughout the continent.

For example, a number of important sectors providing services across Africa are reliant on C-band:

• The financial services industry uses C-band to connect bank branches, facilitating financial inclusion on a continent where – according to the World Bank – less than a quarter of adults have an account with a formal financial institution.

• Many African countries have identified small businesses as significant contributors to economic growth and job creation. Satellite provides cost-effective and robust broadband services for these users, helping them expand their endeavours and gain access to international markets.

• Governments use satellite communications for a number of essential services, including telemedicine and e-learning.

• Satellite provides secure communication channels for the public sector. During elections,

C-band spectrum facilitates communication between voting stations and helps expedite the aggregation and transfer of ballots.

In Nigeria, the C-band spectrum is pivotal to the country’s lucrative television industry, with satellite assisting in providing capacity for earth stations. It is expected that Nigeria’s entertainment and media industry will reach revenues of approximately $8.5 million by 2018 (PWC), with television advertising, subscriptions and licence fees providing $1 billion of that total.

Furthermore, more than 25 million mobile subscribers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rely on C-band capacity to provide mobile and internet connectivity. Satellite is used to provide maximum reach and reliability and also serves as a back-up to fibre connections. Angola’s oil industry uses C-band for VSAT communication on the west coast because the spectrum is resistant to rain fade, providing maximum reliability in an area prone to heavy rainfall.

C-Band Spectrum Cannot be Shared with IMT

Research conducted recently by Euroconsult in partnership with the European Space Agency has shown that sharing the spectrum with mobile wireless services will negatively affect satellite services, including public safety functions.

The interference that would be created by sharing could disrupt critical connectivity for global businesses, governments, relief workers and communities. This effect would not be immediate but would be felt over time as each country introducing these new services would need to take action domestically to make the spectrum available to mobile operators.

As part of its efforts, the IMT community is also promoting the idea that C-band satellite applications can easily be moved to other frequency bands, such as Ku- and Ka-bands. This is untrue:

• The large footprints of C-band are necessary for many regional mobile and fixed networks. No longer using C-band could result in a costly migration process that precluded services from being expanded to more remote regions in need of connectivity.

• In regions that experience heavy and sustained rainfall, Ku- and Ka-band are not as reliable as C-band. This could harm many of the networks in place, particularly those used for the banking and oil and gas industries. Any interruption in service could result in huge revenue losses, with a negative impact on the region’s overall GDP.

The satellite community has undertaken a global campaign to engage corporations and the customers they serve. We strongly encourage those in the industry to educate customers, partners, regulators and government officials about the potential impact to their business

and community.

 By Annette Purves, Principal, Regulatory Affairs, Intelsat