Directing affordable broadband capacity to places where its most needed
Christian Patouraux, Founder & CEO of Kacific Broadband Satellites
A few years ago, I travelled to a community so remote that it took a two-hour flight, followed by a three-hour drive, and a four-hour hike to finally arrive at a clinic that was so remote even the nurses did not want to live there. When faced with a medical emergency in this environment, the ability to contact a specialist doctor for advice or transport could mean the difference between life and death. With high-speed internet connectivity, this clinic could offer healthcare at the same standard as a normal township by accessing nationwide patient databases, arranging efficient medical supplies, arranging consultations with specialists at city hospitals, accessing healthcare information and updates, and facilitating emergency transport.
Clinics like these serve just a fraction of the 2 billion people in Asia and the Pacific who still do not have access to broadband internet – for reasons which include lack of existing infrastructure, geographical challenges, and the high cost of such services. Yet there is much evidence to suggest that with access to the right technology, countless challenges faced by people in remote nations can be addressed. In the Pacific alone, improved internet access and connectivity could bring in more than 5 billion dollars to the economy, and create close to 300,000 new jobs by 2040 (source: World Bank)
It was with this goal of offering affordable, high-speed satellite broadband services to remote and underserved communities that Kacific Broadband Satellites Group was born. Founded in 2013, Kacific began operating an interim Ku-band broadband satellite service from various leased satellites at 800 sites across Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Niue, Samoa, Tuvalu and remote parts of New Zealand. These proof-of-concept services connect medical clinics, schools, post offices, police stations and other public institutions in rural areas where terrestrial broadband infrastructure would be too expensive to deploy.
In the years since, I have seen for myself the game-changing effects that affordable connectivity has on people, both economically and socially:
In the area of education, Kacific supplies connectivity to the Vanuatu Interisland Telemedicine and Learning (VITAL) Network, which has connected remote schools in Vanuatu. The Network gives teachers and students a multi-media rich resource to learn from, as well as the opportunity to develop the IT skills needed to complete further education and be competitive in the job market.
In the area of healthcare, the same VITAL Network connects clinics in remote communities, and has already saved several lives in emergency situations by connecting nurses to specialist doctors in urban hospitals. More recently, in the remote village of Maweo, Vanuatu, Kacific’s broadband connection assisted the remote nurse in seeking lifesaving advice and hospital transport for a patient suffering from acute blood loss.
In Timor-Leste, Kacific’s internet connection is helping rural health clinics across the mountainous nation access healthcare software. More than 75 clinics now have remote areas access to an online portal to manage medicines and medical equipment, as well as the country’s central medical records database. Clinics can now manage their medical resources more efficiently to benefit rural patients.
If this limited interim service has already contributed to changing so many lives, our powerful new Ka-band satellite launching in December, is set to make an enormously positive, far reaching and long-lasting impact.
Once operational, Kacific1 will produce a high throughput Ka-band signal covering more than 600 million people across 25 nations. In keeping with our philosophy of universal access and affordability, users will access this signal with small and easy-to-maintain VSAT dishes, which can be transported to remote locations by boat, car or even on foot. The dishes only require low levels of electric power to operate and can easily be solar-powered.
Suitable ground technology is crucial to making the service accessible to rural and extra-urban businesses and communities. We are confident that this will further drive economic growth and improve social outcomes for people across the region.
I look forward to hearing the success stories coming out of these regions in the coming years.
Founder & CEO
Kacific Broadband Satellites
Christian Patouraux has over two decades’ experience in the satellite industry. Prior to founding Kacific in 2013 he was head of special projects for MEASAT. Before that he was Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at O3b Networks, and prior to that he spent 15 years with SES. Christian holds a Master of Engineering from the Polytechnic school at the University of Brussels, a Master in Aeronautics / Turbomachinery from the Von Karman Institute, Belgium and an MBA from Insead.