South Africa-based Blue Sky Satellite Communications aims to launch its satellite Internet services on a prepaid bandwidth basis in January 2013 for mining companies across Africa, says Blue Sky CEO Pedro Camacho.
He highlights that there is no such service available to the market. “Customers, however, want the option to choose between prepaid and fixed monthly Internet services.”
Prepaid bandwidth will assist new mining companies that are budget conscious to monitor costs by using a pre- paid bandwidth service when needed. There will be no fixed monthly costs, which enables new mining companies to monitor their bottom line and ensure that exploration starts within budget.
Camacho states that about 25% of Blue Sky’s revenue is derived from mining projects, which includes oil and gas exploration projects. When entering unexplored regions in Africa, satellite communications are the first forms of communication on site.
“We have a satellite link in almost every single sub-Saharan African country,” Camacho notes.
Satellite communication provides numerous business- enhancing opportunities for isolated African mining operations, such as preselling production to the global market. This enables mines in Africa to become global players and secure supply contracts faster to generate more income and increase productivity, enhancing the lives of communities surrounding mining operations, he points out.
“Satellite communication connects mines with the world and ensures that mines have efficient procurement, email, Internet browsing and vocal com- munications using programs such as Skype,” Camacho explains.
Mines are able to provide daily updates on production and geological surveys, as well as consumables and sourcing reports to their head offices, which have 24/7 access to mining operations. Procurement costs can also be monitored and calculated according to reports received.
“This allows head offices to micromanage rural or desolate mining sites,” Camacho says and points out that many mining areas in Africa are inadequately managed owing to insufficient communication net- works.
“This is mostly due to insufficient budget, which is a poor excuse as satellite communication has become more affordable because of technological advances and increased availability. “Previously, the cost of this technology was tenfold. “The management cost of satellite communication technology and monthly service fees are now affordable,” Camacho stresses.
Blue Sky also trains on-site personnel to operate and maintain communications equipment, transferring knowledge along with its installation service.
An Australian mining company approached Blue Sky in August 2011 to set up communications for its coal mine in Mozambique. The company rented satellite phones from Blue Sky, which then worked along with the housing infrastructure provider to determine electric cabling and office layout for efficient satellite communication.
“We placed a dedicated satellite link on site once all 300 workers arrived at the coal washing plant,” Camacho notes, adding that a shortage of local information technology knowledge was a challenge during the implementation of the project as this required Blue Sky to send experts to train staff on how to maintain their communication server technology, set up a network and maintain the satellite communications equip- ment.