Kacific Satellite Technologies listens to its customers. And when those customers are based in some of the Pacific island region’s most remote areas, Kacific’s efforts to improve connectivity and meet their communications needs is saving Pacific lives.
For example, at Abwatuntora Mauna Health Centre—where there has been no mobile network for over 40 years—a Kacific VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) installed in January enabled Nurse Nicholas Bage to videoconference with a midwife at another clinic, to get guidance on how to safely deliver a complicated birth. In Papua New Guinea, VSATs and solar equipment have been installed at 30 rural health facilities, connecting community health workers to on-call doctors. In western Santo island, Vanuatu, women are using VSAT to photograph their woven baskets, arrange payments and sell their products locally and to neighbouring countries.
“The underlying principle of Kacific’s business is providing fast affordable broadband to under-served areas,” said Christian Patouraux, Kacific’s Chief Executive Officer. Kacific’s high-throughput Ka-band satellite, Kacific1, is fostering greater internet usage, fueling economic growth and improvements in service delivery across the Pacific islands and southeast Asia. Kacific services about 2500 government facilities, many of them schools and hospitals, in Indonesia, and more than 500 customers in the Philippines. “We currently have 30 clinics in Papua New Guinea that we are connecting with [through PNG Sustainable Development Program]. We’ve connected too in Vanuatu, in Solomons and in Kiribati,” Patouraux says. “Tuvalu is a great example as well. We completely changed the face of the telecom industry. In Tuvalu, the price of broadband dropped by half, in a matter of a year, thanks to our service GigStarter plans.”
GigStarter is a series of broadband plans sized for the number of individuals/devices accessing a particular network. Its success has been built on its accessibility and affordability.
Kacific recently introduced a new range of GigStarter plans, ranging from GigStarter Simple, with speeds of up to 6 MBPS suitable for small households and couples with simple data usage needs, to GigStarter Ultimate, with speeds of up to 40 MBPS which is suitable for small businesses, farms and households connecting up to four devices simultaneously.
In offering these services, Kacific has broken down the wall that typically exists between the vendors of broadband plans and the big infrastructure (satellite operators).
“The value chain in our industry was deeply disrupted for a few months at the beginning of COVID,” Patouraux says. “We had a lot of hesitation in our market. Yet we had a satellite in space. And we saw all these people at home, wanting internet, needing to connect their home, their office, their hospital, their schools, etc. So, we said “Well, look, let’s close that gap.”
Closing the gap involved working with retailers to provide equipment, pricing and marketing support in exchange for a share in revenue.
And with the new terminal kit, which Kacific also recently introduced, Kacific has made entry cost for satellite broadband more affordable for underserved markets. Its introduction will reduce installation time and bring down the cost of the terminal kit by up to 50%, with entry prices starting from USD$530 for all other markets.
Kacific’s GigWiFi is a marriage of its GigStarter broadband plans and WiFi.
The entry-level terminal consists of a new, low-power, high-throughput modem, paired with a transceiver, and the 1.2m VSAT antenna.
Installation is a simple ‘point and play’ process and the set up supports Internet/intranet access, VoIP and multi-casting services over Kacific’s Kaband network. The modem is compact and light, easy to set up, is energy efficient and suitable in all weather conditions.
The product has been a long time in development and testing, says Patouraux. “We did live testing for months, pushing this modem constantly to its limits. And after this, we deployed the modem in small batches, in places like the Philippines, some parts of Papua New Guinea as well. And we just listened to feedback from customers.”
Patouraux envisages the market for the modem as being small businesses, schools, libraries, hotels, universities and health clinics. Entrepreneurial Pacific Islanders could also use GigWiFi in their communities, by selling vouchers for internet access. “It’s really a hybrid system where the owner of a premise could actually make some money out of selling the service,” Patouraux states.
As South Pacific nations enter cyclone season, Kacific has also launched an emergency product, the CommsBox. It is a self-contained unit which includes a self-installing satellite dish, solar-power energy pack, user tablets, preconfigured and connected modem, WiFi set up, all in a sealed, shock-resistant, fire-resistant, buoyant and transportable container.
Kacific’s CommsBox is designed to quickly re-establish connectivity and communications in emergencies and disaster situations. It’s a turnkey solution that can be instantly activated, stored at remote sites or even airdropped into emergency zones. The satellite dish inside connects to Kacific 1.
“If a hurricane or tropical cyclone is about to hit the region, we’ll deploy a couple of these transports, put them in a vault somewhere, let the hurricane come by and then take them out. Then you have immediately, a very highspeed system that is fully autonomous. And so emergency responders can be there and provide situational awareness almost immediately without knowing anything about communications.”
CommsBox is specifically designed for civil defence, police and not-for profit organisations. Eight units have been sold to the Fiji government, and Patouraux hopes more will follow.
He looks forward to the day he can get back to the region to see first-hand, the impact Kacific is having. “What’s very satisfying is that we are becoming part of the daily lives, it’s starting to become business as usual. People are thinking, ‘Oh, I need connectivity’. So, it’s a great validation.”