France-based Eutelsat successfully launches its latest-generation Africa-focused KONNECT communications satellite into Geostationary Transfer Orbit onboard Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket that lifted off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 9.05 pm Universal Time (10.05 pm CET) on January 16.
Built by Thales Alenia Space, the KONNECT communications satellite features all-electric propulsion and operates in Ka-band. It is the first satellite to use Thales Alenia Space’s all-electric Spacebus NEO platform, developed under the Neosat Partnership Project conducted by the European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES).
The KONNECT satellite will provide full or partial coverage for up to 40 countries across Africa and 15 over Europe. Offering a total capacity of 75 Gbps, by next autumn this high throughput satellite will allow the operator to provide Internet access services for both companies and individuals at up to 100 Mbps.
In Africa, the satellite will also allow several users to share internet connection via public Wi-Fi hotspots; a service sold via coupons that can be paid on their mobile phones.
A pivotal part of Eutelsat’s strategy is to restore its growth centred around connectivity. The KONNECT satellite will also play a lead role in bridging the digital divide in Africa and parts of Europe. The next major step forward will come in 2022 with the introduction of the KONNECT VHTS (very high throughput satellite), also under construction by Thales Alenia Space.
The KONNECT flagship program allows Eutelsat to provide cutting-edge bespoke satellite connectivity services across markets in Africa, Europe and Russia.
Commenting on the successful launch, Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat said: “Our congratulations to Arianespace and the Guiana Space Center teams for successfully launching our EUTELSAT KONNECT satellite towards geostationary orbit. The collaboration between Eutelsat, Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace on this ambitious satellite programme has resulted in a world-first broadband satellite for the African and European continents that demonstrates the suitability of satellite infrastructure as a means to deliver high-quality broadband services, contributing to bridging the digital divide within rural areas.”
Founded in 1977, Eutelsat Communications is one of the world’s leading satellite operators. With a global fleet of satellites and associated ground infrastructure, Eutelsat enables clients across Video, Data, Government, Fixed and Mobile Broadband markets to communicate effectively to their customers, irrespective of their location.
The publicly-traded company on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange declared €1.4 billion in revenue in 2018, with €98.4 million generated from sales in the African market.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.