Gilat Telecom is helping bring 4G to Africa from space
Whether it's satellite, fiber, or cloud, the telecommunications giant is offering its services to sub-Saharan countries in some of the most remote locations in the world
Yafit Ovadia | 10:51 15.08.2021
With Israel’s Nimbus project underway, as well as Google’s plans to build a server farm and expand connectivity across the Jewish State, the country will have increased options to improve connectivity locally. Gilat Telecom is an Israeli company aiming to bring some of that connectivity around the world with its satellite, fiber, and cloud offerings. In June, the company, which is part of the Satcom Systems Group, won a tender from the Israel Broadcasting Corporation to transmit the Kan News Channel’s television and radio broadcasts via satellite. Currently, the corporation distributes two channels using software-defined network technology and eight radio channels via Spacecom’s Amos 17 satellite for space communications. Gilat Telecom has been operating for the past 25 years in the telecommunications sector, offering satellite and fiber-based connectivity solutions, delivering high-quality broadband communication to mobile-network operators (MNOs) and internet service providers (ISPs). The core of its operations are in Africa, particularly the sub-Saharan countries, where it yields 75% of its revenues, and connects some of the most remote locations to the internet; while its remaining revenues come from its operations in Israel.
Poised above planet EarthWhile traditional satellites for telecommunications are located in geostationary orbits (GEO) and do not rotate often, Gilat utilizes them but also employs those located at medium-Earth orbit (MEO) positions, which are most effective in providing services to remote locations. Customers need only install a satellite dish to get service, browse their email, stream Netflix, and more. They also do not require any expensive infrastructure - aside from electricity - which can be obtained from solar panels, a modem, and dish. Alternately, its GEO satellites are able to power livestream services on moving vehicles, such as news vans, since they remain in one static location in space. “Using low latency satellites provides more stable services, because there are less possible points of failure compared to fiber,” Rosenheck explained, “it’s especially useful in places like in Chad, Niger, and Congo where installing terrestrial connectivity or building cell towers is very expensive since the country is quite large, and we can reach more areas via satellite.”
Gilat's wide-range connectivity helps schoolchildren connect to the internet in Cameroon. Photo: ShutterstockCloud computing across the continent Beginning in 2019, Gilat began offering cloud services to African countries too. Cloud computing has become a necessity, and companies like AWS and Microsoft Azure are taking over the sector. Gilat sells virtual private servers with storage and backup options to MNOs, and its cloud solutions contain disaster recovery as well. “We offer cloud infrastructure in certain countries, so customers won’t experience delays when connecting to the internet via fiber or satellites,” he explained. The group recently constructed a server farm in Uganda. As to the next countries in the works, Gilat has Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Niger in its sights. “We’re investing locally in those countries by building server farms, so that hospitals, banks, and other companies can connect right away. Cloud connectivity is more stable, and doesn’t consume expensive resources like fiber and satellites do,” he added.
Some of Gilat's satellites in a remote locations in Africa where connectivity is sparse. Photo: Gilat TelecomFinancial flexibility The company first began its path in the 1990s, and went public in 2004 on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Originally, Gilat Satellite - which designs satellite networks - was part of Gilat Telecom, but split off into an offshoot company and is strictly a hardware manufacturer that creates modems and satellite hubs, while Telecom remains a service provider. In the past, Gilat was owned by the Eurocom Group, whose shareholders held full control. However, since February 2021, the company has remained without a single controlling shareholder and is able to operate more freely.