In a long awaited step, SkyVision is now offering in Africa its Internet services over an inclined-orbit satellite (the IS-603) from Intelsat. The new service promises prices as low as USD1,500/Mbps-USD1,700/Mbps. With this new capacity, it is now introducing a new concept in satellite driven Internet and IP services in Africa – the use of inclined orbit service. SkyVision has been offering this service over a number of years in Europe, its initial service market in which it continues to hold a leading share. Inclined orbit has also been used for Internet backbone trunk service in South America and Asia. In Europe, SkyVision has been deploying inclined orbit satellites for Internet backbone services for its larger telecommunication and Internet providers located in Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Turkey and also other countries, and it continues to provide such service.

What is an Inclined Orbit Satellite? During any satellite's life span, its orbital position and its stability within its orbital slot movement relies on fuel-fed engines to counter natural orbit tilting movements due to the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. Whether a satellite is “stationary” or inclined it is always in movement. A satellite is still considered ‘stationary’ when its movements in space remain inside an imagined box of approximately 75 x 75 x 150 kilometers. This is the ‘box’ that needs to be covered by any antenna looking at a satellite. Operators sometimes deliberately cut-back on the use of fuel, primarily on the north-south corrections and not the east-west corrections, in order to extend the life of a satellite. This is what is known as “inclined orbit” operation. For such an operation, a tracking antenna is used. Tracking antennas are always also used for ‘stationary’ satellites if the antenna is over 4.5-meters in size. At that size, it is sensitive to the change in its beam within the imagined box of all stationary satellites.

Tracking antennas use a motorized system that constantly ‘follows’ the pattern of the satellite’s movement over a 24-hour cycle. This mechanism is completely automated and is highly reliable and accurate. Constant tracking of the satellite has been used by all the large Telcos typically deploying large antennas (i.e. over 4.5-meter). Tracking is an ideal and proven solution for high quality point-to-point service. It is clearly not practical for DTH (direct-to-home) or broadcast service to millions of households.

The advantage of inclined-orbit satellite service is the significant cost reduction. Premium space segment is used for TV in high density population areas such as USA or Europe. Inclined orbit is the ideal solution for point-to-point service. It is ideally suited to customers with reliance on large bandwidth. As an example, when compared to the cost of C-band based space segment, space on Intelsat IS-603 can be in the range of USD1,500/Mbps-USD1,700/Mbps.

An inclined orbit satellite system requires motors and tracking system which are either purchased as a part of an earth station or can be added to the already existing earth station. The antenna is fitted with motors that shift it in respective elevation and azimuth directions, assuring a perfect satellite tracking. Many earth stations in Africa are already suitable for inclined orbit service. Being large they are anyway equipped with the necessary tracking motors.

The Intelsat IS-603 inclined orbit service offered by SkyVision is extremely flexible as it is offered in any combinations of Receive and Transmit as well as QPSK and 8PSK modulations (that are able to drive the initial pricing even further down)

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