Special report: Ubiquitous mobile communication is still far out of reach in the third world, despite the the rest of the planet  taking it for granted.

But ASX-listed Sky and Space Global plans to change that.

The company’s nano-satellites are set to be released into orbit early 2019 , eventually opening up text, call and instant message communication to the equatorial belt – largely third-world Africa and Asia.

Sky and Space Global (ASX:SAS) is targeting an addressable market of 3 billion with a telecommunication service chief Meir Moalem says the developed world underestimates.

“Most people cannot truly evaluate the importance of sending a text message,” he said.

“The fact that we could allow for people in that region to have the same connectivity that we take for granted means the world to them and opens up an ecosystem of business.

“This is all about connecting the unconnected where there is hardly any infrastructure.”

A recent Pew Research Centre survey found a third of the population in developing nations owns smartphones. The devices are seen as a symbol for opportunities in bridging the gap for easy access to improved healthcare, education and economic growth.

Smartphone ownership has been shown to increase per capita GDP and a 2016 report by GMSA Intelligence showed the mobile industry’s expansion has supported more than 3.8 million jobs in Africa.

“It is about creating an active ecosystem — and when you have connectivity there are efficiencies all the way through to business and in government,” Mr Moalem said.

Nano-satellite strategy

Mission success depends on what SAS has dubbed its ‘Pearls’ – 200 nano-satellites set to launch into the atmosphere starting in about a year and forming a full constellation by 2020.

The technology was tested with the company’s three diamonds since June last year — 10cm x 10cm x 30cm nanosatellites that proved that you could make a phone call using a device the size of half a shoe box, located 500km away. The 3 Diamonds are in space and fully operational.

The Pearls satellites will be powered by 3-metre sun-tracking solar panels that allow 24/7 operation. Once in orbit customers will tap into the service through a dedicated smartphone satellite device or through an adapter — similar to connecting to a wi-fi hotspot.

Mr Moalem says SAS has the timing right to capitalise on new, efficient satellite technology.

“In the past few years we have seen the miniaturisation of electronic components so devices have better payloads, antennas etc. This is our window of opportunity and so far we are the only ones to use nanosatellites for communications,” he said.

“The environment is rich in radiation, the temperature shifts between negative 100 and 150 degrees and you relinquish full control of your assets so they have to be reliable.

“It is not as easy as throwing a satellite into space, but rather putting out an economic product and making sure it performs as expected.”

For SAS, the satellite manufacturer has been shored up with GomSpace, which is also partnering with Virgin Orbit to launch satellites to track airplanes and ships next year.


This special report is brought to you by Sky and Space Global.

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