Q&A with Dr Dawie de Wet
iDirect: Please describe Q-KON and its role in the African finance market.
de Wet: Q-KON is a specialist telco focused on developing and operating “off-grid” connectivity solutions for enterprise, business and industry throughout Africa. “Off-grid” refers to locations, service, or both, which are off the national telecom networks and can’t be met by the existing telco infrastructure.
Although the mobile networks provide good 3G data coverage, the financial services market in Africa requires higher reliability and assured Service Level Agreement (SLA) services for branch back-up, ATM and point-of-sales services. Together with iDirect, Q-KON has developed specific satellite access solutions that integrate the always-on, anywhere, and high reliability advantages of satellite services with network efficiency, cost optimisation and committed SLA support. The services are providing cost points below current 3G access and are opening new business models for the financial sector even for shopping malls and metros where the high demand on 3G connectivity leads to mobile network congestion and effectively creates an “off-grid” situation.
iDirect: How long have you been an iDirect partner and why did Q-KON select our technology?
de Wet: Q-KON started working with iDirect around 2005, at that time for the first private satellite access network for African Bank as well as enterprise broadband services. iDirect proved to be a powerful combination of technology characteristics, engineering strength and management commitment which is needed to develop highly specialised networks in demanding environments.
iDirect: What prompted your decision to deploy a regional gateway network using mesh in Swaziland?
de Wet: Pan-African banks are facing bigger and bigger challenges to develop regional and national market sectors. This is made more difficult by local monetary regulations that stipulate that all processing must be done in-country. This creates the following paradox for Pan-African banks: To lower cost and improve efficiency, the preference is to centralise infrastructure and consolidate network costs while complying with every local regulation. Banks must decentralide infrastructure and establish local networks and processing hub.
The iDirect regional node mesh solution was developed as the most elegant and best-of-both-worlds answer to this conflicting requirement. While using one principle network core to service all-African regional nodes, using a mesh receiver, this can be installed in each country to provide full local connectivity. This requires much less infrastructure investment in the country while still complying with the local financial regulations.
The iDirect architecture, which includes advanced functions such as mesh TCP acceleration, multiple channel demodulators and low-cost remotes, ensures that the network can be exactly configured to meet all requirements. Specific optimisations were done to ensure successful operation of all the proprietary banking applications.
iDirect: Describe the top challenges satellite technology solves for your customers.
de Wet: It is exclusively about reliability and trusted service.
Satellite technology by its nature is very reliable. It utilises no communication towers or other ground segments, and with the latest iDirect modulation characteristics, is largely not affected by weather. Adding to this the SLA offered by Q-KON, with committed response time and enforceable on-site support field response, provides the financial industry with a clear business advantage.
iDirect: Describe the business potential of this regional gateway solution, some in industry called star-in-star topology, enabled by iDirect Multi-carrier Mesh.
de Wet: For Q-KON, the potential of the regional node architecture opens up completely new dimensions and market sectors. All regional financial providers, utilities and enterprises can now have the benefit of terminating data services in-country while minimising cost through the central network core. This has the potential to spur various smaller country networks and service the main markets like banks as well as smaller sectors such as education.
It also holds the option that these country networks can grow and potentially at a later stage become complete independent and fully functional satellite networks. As the industry evolves towards High Throughput Satellites (HTS), the need to find scalable solutions will become more and more critical.
iDirect: What are Q-KON’s key differentiators in the marketplace?
de Wet: We design for sales. We leverage our solid system engineering core and strong business model understanding in the African market context to design and develop solutions that open specific market sectors and/or unlock business case scenarios.
In 2018, we are celebrating 30 years of servicing Africa and we always strive to build long term relationships. Underlining all our business activities is a strong culture and commitment to deliver tomorrow what we promised yesterday. We have been doing this since 1988 and we will strive to continue servicing Africa the Q-KON way.
iDirect: Tell us what Q-KON will be up to in 2018 and how you will move forward with iDirect technology.
de Wet: It is a changing time for the satellite industry. The advent of HTS networks will see the industry developing new operating models and pushing new product concepts. With satellites now touching multiples of Gbps capacity and the technology showing roadmaps that make 1 million subscribers in Africa possible in three to five years, it is a time for interesting business dynamics. With the iDirect Velocity® platform, iDirect is a strong player and was selected as the technology of choice for a number of international large-scale networks.
From this perspective, and given Q-KON’s strong experience and credible industry record, we are working on options toward the 1 million Africa subscriber milestone. In 2018, we will expand our regional position and increase the Q-KON licensed operator footprint. This will enable us to work both on large-scale broadband deployments that could possibly be based on the Velocity platform while at the same time continuing with our expertise to develop high-value solutions leveraging iDirect’s Evolution® network.
Dr. Dawie de Wet is the Chief Executive Officer of Q-KON Africa and Chairman of the Group. He has 30 years of experience in the design, development and implementation of wireless, microwave and satellite communication systems in Africa. In 1988, he joined the Q-KON board and was appointed Managing Director in 1993.
In 2013, Dawie completed his PhD in Engineering. His thesis titled: “A scalable business model for mass customisation of broadband services in the emerging Africa market” summarised the result of seven years of research focused on the value proposition of the domain where technology, business and market domains intersect. The research work provides both Dawie and Q-KON with a sound reference and foundation to meet current and future market demands in challenging landscapes.