Depending on who you talk to, you are likely to have varied opinions on the differences and the role of fiber versus satellite. There was a lot of discussions in East Africa how the entry of fiber will lead to more stable connections and how we will not need satellite anymore.

Two years later, we are still having problems with up times, fiber being cut in the high seas and a return to satellite for redundancy. I have always maintained that satellite has its place and that is why more birds are being launched every year.

I sat at a session where two presenters were inclined to satellite and they went on and on how satellite trumps fiber and all. Of course during emergencies and for broadcast services, there is no doubt we need satellite.

Fiber has few latencies and is more stable but for many of us, getting fiber to the home or to the premise is proving an expensive exercise. For instance, for many fiber owners, they only connect you free if you are within 100 meters of the fiber and if you can guarantee some good business, of course it must make economic sense.

I think there is a place for every type of technology like fiber helps where wimax doesnt have good coverage or there’s vegetation. Satellite will also help in areas with no fiber networks or link to the metro networks.

One thing you can not take away from fiber is the fact that if freed up the capacity on satellite and allowed it to get low but the desire for back up means satellite capacity will still remain high. For companies that were investing huge sums of money for backhaul and voice services, it was a huge relief and I guess thats why the GSM companies can afford to lower the costs considerably.

At AfricaCom, most of the products and stands were about fiber optic connectivity; whether at the base station level or NOC optimization, there was no doubt fiber is attracting global business but so is satellite.

For instance, iDirect, Inc., a satellite-based IP provider, announced that SatLink Communications, a leading provider of transmission solutions for video, audio and data over satellite platforms, fiber and IP, has launched an iDirect Evolution network to enhance its data services. By purchasing a new Evolution satellite hub, SatLink is offering complete service coverage across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The announcement proved that companies who had invested heavily in satellite are now diversifying to include services over fiber and meshing the platforms. This has to do with improving reliability and scalability, just in case you get a client in 20 countries and four have no fiber network then the connections can be seamless.

“Whether we’re supporting a VNO service handling critical data for a government or enterprise client, or a broadcaster transmitting a live HD-video feed of a major event, the quality and integrity of our services is non-negotiable. By implementing an Evolution network, we can enhance bandwidth speeds and throughput, and offer the levels of reliability and security that are critical to our broadcast, government and corporate customers who entrust us with their most valuable assets,” said David Hochner, CEO, SatLink Communications.