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Satellite operators already make a huge impact to communications in developing nations thanks to the ubiquitous coverage of their satellites. Services in developing nations are very often enabled via the C-band thanks to the robustness of the signal in the equatorial rain belt, where heavy rainfall can cause other satellite signals to fade and affect their reliability. Some services are however effectively supplied also using the Ku and now the Ka band.

Examples demonstrate that development opportunities can be seized now by making use of the invisible infrastructure in the sky that covers all countries around the globe, without the need for large-scale investment projects that may take years to implement and that strain already stretched government budgets.

Access to telecommunications is key to ensuring that every person has the opportunity to participate in the global marketplace and that each individual can reach the potential of their human capital. In the knowledge economy, a gap has emerged between those who have unlimited access to all modern communications’ tools and those who do not. Bridging this ‘Digital Divide’ will not just invigorate remote individuals and communities; it will also help to invigorate national and regional economies.

Rural and Remote Access

Those on the wrong side of the ‘Digital Divide’ are more likely to be in rural and remote areas; and it is here that satellites are uniquely able to provide a cost-effective solution. While laying cables or deploying base stations deep in the Amazon rainforest may be expensive and potentially hazardous, simply pointing a satellite dish at a geo-stationary satellite will bring instant connectivity wherever the dish is placed.

Satellite technology can immediately provide not only basic voice connectivity, but is often the only solution for citizens to gain access to increasingly complex data services. Internet access at broadband speeds can allow people to exchange information and share experiences, becoming fully integrated into the digital world – all via satellite.

Mobile Backhaul

Citizens in rural and remote areas also benefit from synergies between satellite communications and terrestrial technologies. Satellites enable terrestrial communications service providers to overcome the cost of building mobile towers across dispersed areas by enabling a direct “backhaul” connection to the base station - this brings the benefits that mobile telephony to people no matter where they live, often in regions where terrestrial capacity is unavailable, unreliable, too costly or simply not suitable for expansion.

Distance Education

Students study in ‘digital’ classrooms all over the world

Schools all over the world are incorporating virtual learning environments and educational technologies to support learning and teaching. E-learning allows classrooms full of students to sit in front of a monitor and receive a lesson given by a teacher hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres away. Students in remote parts of the world no longer have to travel long distances or re-locate to receive an education but can stay with their families while gaining the benefits of an education.

Innovations in satellite technology and low cost receiving antennae are making satellite services increasingly available. Satellite services are advantageous where other networks are not available due to poor infrastructure or reception and for multimedia push delivery to a large dispersed population. The provision of e-learning to remote students by satellite is consistent and occurs faster than other currently available methods of transmission. And the teaching does not only take the form of watching teachers give lessons - very large-sized web-based training modules and multi-media-rich transmissions can easily be transmitted using satellite technology allowing students access to large amounts of data. There is virtually no limit to the number of remote locations that can receive satellite transmission, provided they have the necessary equipment.

Telemedicine

Today, a doctor in a small, isolated village in Africa can be assisted in real time by doctors hundreds of miles away via satellite communication. With telemedicine, geographical isolation does not impede the quality of medical services provided. Advances in telemedicine are helping to ensure that modern medical treatment and advice is readily available to people in remote settings, increasing people's quality of life, as well as allowing complex lifesaving procedures to be carried out far from the nearest city. The advantages that satellite communications can bring to telemedicine include instant access to broadband services, particularly in remote areas where telecommunications are poor or non-existent and during the need for swift responses in disaster situations, where speed is vital.

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