Intelsat and Africa Mobile Network Overcome Challenges to Expand Connectivity in Madagascar

Intelsat’s Jean Philippe Gillet discusses efforts to connect remote Madagascar through Africa Mobile Network initiatives.

Jean Philippe Gillet, SVP, Intelsat Media, Mobility & Networks talks about Africa Mobile Network and Intelsat’s efforts to accelerate connectivity in Madagascar.

The rainy season in Madagascar is one heck of a time to start building a connectivity network, but progress can’t be deterred. Africa Mobile Network (AMN) and Intelsat are working to connect 500 sites in Madagascar in hopes of providing first-time phone broadband services to folks who live and work across the country.

According to the GSMA, Madagascar has a Global Connectivity Index rating of 32.5, meaning it is an emerging digital market where the adoption of technology is just taking shape. The government is committed to increasing access to digital services, with the Digital and Energy Connectivity for Inclusion in Madagascar (DECIM) project launched in 2023, focusing on deploying infrastructure in under-served areas.

Connecting this country is a challenge, with 60% of the population living in rural areas, most of which are difficult to access and some being beyond the reach of the country’s power grid. The lakes, the Tsaratanana Massif or the Central Highlands might be what makes the island so beautiful and special, but they don’t make it easy to reach remote villages.

Let’s look at the example of Vilanandro on the Northwest coast. The city of 1800 inhabitants is connected by Route Nationale 4 (RN4), a primary highway to the city of Majunga, and then only by ferry and the RN19 to Soalala. The rainy seasons do not make travel any easier, as roads become impassable. As the AMN team embarked on the 700km-trip from Antananarivo, the country’s capital, to Vilanandro, very little did they know what an adventure this would be.

From the route Nationale and ferries to dirt roads, it took crews over 15 days to make the trip. Techs deployed equipment by using carts pulled by livestock and sometimes canoes to carry terminals and equipment to the final destination. All this would not have been possible without the help of village volunteers, who helped carry equipment on foot to reach the final site location.

The rewards, however, could not be greater. Since the connectivity has been set up, a local farmer who previously had to wait for postal orders can now check everything online, while the school now has access to a broader range of courses available online.

AMN specialises in rural deployments, and while the conditions are difficult, techs have significant experience in deployments that would otherwise be impossible.

A combination of Intelsat’s satellite backhaul and AMN’s unique site design is used to connect the rural communities to telephone services. The ubiquity of satellite and solar solutions means that no location is too remote. The AMN team’s dedication shows they can overcome even the most difficult logistical challenges.

To date, 65 sites are up and running with a goal to connect 120 sites by the end of March 2024. At that point, 200,000 people will have access to telecommunication services where no coverage previously had been available from any network operator.

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