Square Kilometre Array offers subsidised internet from the sky for Karoo residents

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The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)  is one of the most prestigious scientific experiments ever to have been awarded to South Africa. But because of the need for the area to be virtually radio-silent to keep the experiments free from interference, the communities surrounding the SKA site in the Northern Cape will be plum out of luck when it comes to getting broadband internet delivered using traditional means.

Vox Telecoms and the SKA have teamed up to offer satellite internet and voice connectivity to those within the area affected by the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act, which the Department of Science and Technology put in place to protect the SKA site from potentially damaging radio interference. Since the area is too remote to have fixed line infrastructure rolled out, and with radio waves not on the table, satellite really is the only option.

It’s obviously not an ideal solution for those looking to do video calling or large downloads because of the relatively small data caps. Gaming is also out of the question because of high latency times that can reach 800ms at times.

“Access to telecommunication services is extremely important but tends to be quite sparse and intermittent in these remote rural areas. The lack of radio signals in the area is what makes it one of the best locations in the world to build the SKA.” explains Selaelo Matlhane, the alternative communications and spectrum manager for SKA SA. “However, protection requirements for the area mean that expanding access to telecommunication services needs to be done in a ‘radio astronomy friendly’ manner that is affordable to the local communities.”

SKA South Africa will be subsidising satellite receiver hardware from YahClick, a service from YahSat offered by Vox in South Africa, which will bring the prices down to a more reasonable level, preventing the residents around the SKA from being severely financially impacted by its operation.



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