Singapore-based satellite operator Kacific is readying for a major expansion drive, with plans to significantly boost headcount at its Sydney and Singapore offices on the back of solid revenue gains from supplying a Ka-band broadband service to hitherto neglected markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We need to make sure that we have people on the ground – boots on the ground – to hold the hands of our customers,” Kacific founder and CEO Christian Patouraux told Telecom Times, adding that the firm expects to have increased its headcount to 40 or 45 from the current 20 staff.
“We won’t have installers ourselves because we don’t do that,” Patouraux added. “We sell capacity and megabytes to our customers. We own our teleports but our customers have to install the terminal and install the service. But we will have people in those countries also to help customers address issue.”
Patouraux emphasised the enormous demand for broadband services in some of the firm’s target markets, saying that according to Kacific’s own independent advisers as well as a recent government report, in Indonesia by next year there will be demand equalling 1 terabyte per second. “In 2025, that demand will grow up to 5 terabyte per second. Now, today in Indonesia, there’s only 50 gigabyte per second of satellite,” he added.
Founded in 2013, Kacific’s proposition centers on using Ka-band satellite capabilities to provide broadband connectivity to under-served regions, having initially focused on community amenities and government services such as schools and hospitals around the Pacific.
The idea was to first select places worldwide where Kacific would have a clear edge on potential rivals which might come up with a terrestrial connectivity offering, as compared to locations around the globe in the developed world where satellite can fill gaps, but where – by the same token – terrestrial connectivity can easily move in as well.
“The satellite industry tends to go after certain segments, and then other segments are more like an after-thought,” Patouraux said.“I saw actually there were still a lot of things to do in rural areas [and even] in suburban areas in developed countries, but in developing countries as well.”
In addition, Patouraux felt the Ka-band wasn’t being sufficiently exploited. “I think there was a lot of money that had been put into the Ka-band business and technologies, to try to arrive at the kind of satellite offering that we have today.”
However, Patouraux also noted at that time a massive supply gap on the demand side, while on the supply side, “nobody was really using that supply, the type of technology to address that shortcoming.”
As Kacific’s order book reached sufficient critical mass to merit the payload, Patouraux believed his venture should not include getting its own satellite. “We’re a new company; let’s look for a partner, let’s try to find someone who owns a slot and is willing to put our payload on board their satellite,” he explained.
“I wanted really our offering to prevail [by starting] from a location that would be almost impossible to connect via terrestrial means,” he said. “When we looked at the Pacific it was an obvious case. When I went into some places like Vanuatu or Tuvalu, people were telling me, ‘You’re the first one to come. Nobody comes here’.”
The firm has since shifted its focus to also include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and The Philippines as its main target markets – along with Bangladesh, Nepal and New Zealand.
However, Patouraux billed New Zealand for instance as somewhat of an afterthought. “It’s a different market than all of the other ones we’re covering,” he said. “But then we realised there is a demand in New Zealand, there is no national satellite really there. [However], it’s a developed country that’s quite isolated, so it doesn’t benefit from other satellite programs. So then we thought, ‘Okay, let’s try to be the equivalent of the NBN satellite for New Zealand’.”
Patouraux said so far Kacific has been the only satellite operator which has really looked at New Zealand from a pure Ka broadband perspective. “New Zealand is a great market actually, still today, despite all their push for fibre to the home. We still have some residential users who are not connected, but we also have a lot of enterprise users needing satellite as a backup.”
“It’s a very active seismic location so if fibre gets cut there could be issues if the Big One comes,” Patouraux said.
Earlier this week, Kacific was in a position to step in when an outage in the submarine cable network that connects Tonga to the outside world, plunging the island nation into digital oblivion. The only international service available – providing crucial connectivity while Tonga Cable carried out repair work – was supplied by Kacific Broadband Satellite, and delivered in-country by ISP, EziNET.