The satellite-based system will allow operators to extend their networks to areas with sparse populations, no electricity and low spending power -- factors that discourage investors from investing.
"The GSM unit costs between $25,000-$30,000 compared to normal GSM [Global System for Mobile Communications] base stations that cost $100,000, and the operator is expected to pay costs of electricity; this technology makes investment in rural areas more attractive," said Faraj Elamari, the CEO of RascomStar-QAF.
The system is expected to serve areas with a few subscribers to a maximum of 10,000. The unit can come as voice-only or with broadband capabilities, depending on operator preferences. RascomStar-QAF is a collaboration of 56 African countries and private investors, and operates a satellite beaming to all countries.
ViaSat has been working with RascomStar-QAF on other rural telephony projects and expects to work with operators and regulators to make it easier for single-hop communication between countries.
"The best thing with the GSM unit is that billing is per minute and operators get [an] integrated billing system on the VSAT platform; local operators are able to monitor and manage their network with access provided by RascomStar-QAF," said Harry Stribos, sales director at ViaSat.