the Technology Interface/Winter97

Worldwide Internet Connectivity via Satellite...
Why Wait?

Bill Sepmeier
NSN Network Services
Avon, CO

I am composing and editing this article on my PC at my home office in Vail, Colorado. After editing, it will be transmitted electronically over the Internet to the website you are visiting right now. Obviously, you are using the 'net to access and read it, from the comfort of your own home or office, wherever in the world you are. today. It seems that the internet is everywhere, but in reality, there are vast populated areas of the earth where no one has access to what is fast becoming the planet'smost important means of communication and commerce.

Why are these areas off-line? In some cases, politics and religious beliefs play a role. In most cases, however, the reason is a simple lack of infrastructure. Developing nation's governments often do not have the funding to provide enough telecommunications facilities to handle their burgeoning international call and fax demands. Adding the internet is therefore a low priority. Unfortunately, the failure to get "on-line" further hampers business growth and development, which compounds this "Catch22" infrastructure situation.

Large NGO's, or non-government organizations, such as USAID, the WorldBank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) seem to continually announce grand plans to bring the 'net to developing nations, but in these daysof short government money, the plans never seem to get much further thanthe drawing boards in the bureaucrat's Washington DC offices.

Several large multi-national corporations have announced plans to bringlow cost 'net access to the world with the launch of advanced satellite technology -- in 1998, 1999, or the year 2000. By the time this technology becomes available, technological light-years will have passed in the rest of the world, and the populations in the developing nations planned to be served will be hopelessly behind the technology and business development state of the art.

Events over the past year prove that there is no reason for developing nations to remain unconnected to the Internet. There is no reason to wait for Ka-Band scanning raster USAT technology, government aid, or large off-shore corporations to deliver their vertically integrated and proprietary systems.Today's geostationary satellite fleets are now connecting previously non-connected nations and peoples to the 'net, thanks primarily to aggressive private sector systems integration firms that provide turn-key Internet and Satellite services to private sector Internet Service Providers in developing countries.

An example is InfoMail (Uganda) Ltd., ( start-up ISP in Kampala, Uganda. Uganda, after years of political repression,has emerged as a leading example of private sector economic growth in central-east Africa. This growth has been helped substantially by the addition of full-time high-speed satellite Internet connectivity to Kampala's telecommunications "mix" of services.

Before InfoMail went on-line in August, 1995, businesses often had towait hours for an international telephone line. Sending a fax over these lines cost US $4.00 to $5.00 per page; most businesses spent over $2,500per month just for international fax transmissions. Now, Ugandan Internet users pay as little as $50.00 per month for global Internet access. InfoMail customers now file-attach their documents to fax servers in the USA, and pay as little as 5 US cents per page to send and receive their fax traffic.Several new software development firms are operational in Kampala, performing contract development for companies in Europe, the USA and Japan, and employing scores of well-educated Ugandan university graduates -- all because of their Internet connection to their new customers around the world. InfoMail alone has grown to a staff of over 25 well-paid local people! The local newspaper, The New Vision,is available on-line with both a WWW and email subscription edition. Inshort, the 'net came to Kampala courtesy of the private sector, and business is booming!

This success story has now been repeated in several other countries,and more are joining the queue every day. As the Internet has evolved from a US Defense Department system, to a University / Academic system, into a Global Business system, the trend towards private sector development of this resource should also increase -- even in the world's "poorer"countries. The 'net has traditionally been a home for innovation, free thinking, and spontaneous generation of new ideas.

Today's integrated Internet and satellite technology, combined with further deregulation of telecommunications worldwide, more creative venture financing and growing confidence in these developing nation's private sector business people, is bringing the developing world on-line now. These trends will help boost developing nation productivity to new highs long before tomorrow's vapor ware ever gets into orbit, keeping developing nations on the leading edge of the curve and increasing their competitiveness in the global "Third Wave" economy.

©1996 Bill Sepmeier All Rights Reserved

Bill Sepmeier is Vice President, Satellite Engineering, for NSN NetworkServices, Ltd. NSN is a Colorado company that provides worldwide satellitenetwork systems and international Internet connectivity. For more information,contact Bill at or visit onthe World Wide Web.