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Africa chooses VoIP as rural telephony method

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Four different companies are focusing on providing telephone communication to rural cities in Africa.

Portable BGAN (broadband global area network) is a terminal which connects to satellites in 98% of the world to transfer data and voice. The service has been chosen as the answer to defeat difficulties in connectivity in rural areas, and is being used by humanitarian and aid organizations. Portable BGAN is available from US$1000.

A group of telecommunication experts is developing a mesh potato network in South Africa to connect 300 000 people to telephone communication. Dabba, a local company, is working on the service which will provide free voice calls to whoever is inside the internet network amplified by the company, and if users want to call other users in other networks, they will pay fees lower than the ones currently charged by major South Africa operators.

In Zambia, Connect Africa, along with Iridium Satellite and Thuraya, have been testing payphones. One is solar-powered, while the other is powered by zinc–air fuel cells. The payphones connect to a satellite to transmit voice calls, which have special price plans according to the department you are phoning, such as for example, for calls relating to community affairs.

The Fantsuam Foundation accidentaly got into the VoIP business in Nigeria as it needed to share its VSAT connection in order to be able to pay for the bandwidth. The Foundation currently broadcasts the signal over 15km and covers 100 000 people in their ZiitNet network. Users of the network can call each other for free, but the device itself costs 50US$, and has to be connected to a computer. The only way to make sure the service is successful is to licence it to small businesses as part of a micro-business scheme and let consumers use it for a fee.

Satellites might be the way telephony is conducted in the future of rural African cities, eliminating the need for cables and providing a quicker way for consumers to be connected. Such use will also be benefitial for urban consumers as it will reduce the time to get connected to a service, almost to a zero.

More information on Portable BGAN, the Mesh Potato Network in South Africa, The Community Call Box in Zambia, and the VoIP service in Nigeria by Fantsuam Foundation is available on its linked pages.

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By , Editor-in-Chief, Johannesburg office

Published on Oct 25th, 2008 GMT +2


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