30/06/20202 Minutes

Serving Underserved Communities

Two elements underpinned the rationale behind this webinar discussion of ‘Serving Underserved Communities’. The first element, the continuing existence of the digital divide between developed nations with advanced communications infrastructures and countries with a poorly developed capacity to secure reliable internet broadband access. The second element, brought into particular focus as a result of broadband demand structural shifts arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – lockdowns, social distancing, and increasing patterns of working from home – highlighting the digital divide between well-served urban, and underserved rural and remote areas, within nations that are otherwise seen to have extensive advanced broadband communications capabilities.

Panellists addressed a wide range of issues, for example, identfying the principal barriers to serving the underserved – Is it connectivity? Or, is it affordability? Or, is it regulatory? What is the role of Universal Service Funds? – in terms of for how much longer will we still be discussing the search for solutions to the digital divide.

Discussing the role of satellite in meeting the challenges of bridging the divide, comparison was made between the respective advantages and disadvatanges of GEO/GSO satellites and NGSO systems, and particular attention was focused on the characteristics of MEO in extending the reach of government, education and health to underserved communities. Examples of the role of community Wi-Fi in providing internet access was also covered in depth.

Connections between satellite-based services and patterns of deployment of 4G and 5G networks was also addressed, as was the relationship between serving the underserved and the imperatives of the role of satellite in emergency response and business continuity.

‘Serving Underserved Communities’ webinar was sponsored by AvL Technologies, a leader in the supply of mobile satellite antenna systems and positioners, with innovative designs, technical superiority and reliable performance.