Start-up Quika is launching what it claims will be the world’s first entirely free high-speed satellite internet for consumers in developing countries.
The service will initially be available in Iraq and Afghanistan before rolling out to the whole of Africa and the Middle East in Q2 2018, according to an announcement made at CabSat in Dubai this week.
Quika is the brainchild of Alan Afrasiab, founder and chairman of Quika and also CEO of Talia, the global teleport, satellite and terrestrial network operator providing VSAT based communication services to governments, NGOs and the oil and gas sector in emerging markets.
Quika uses GEO and LEO constellations to provide high-speed, low latency Ka-band internet using high-throughput satellites. “We believe that left unbalanced, entire communities and regions will be abandoned by technological and economic progress. Quika will help bridge this digital and economic divide” commented Afrasiab at the launch.
Inevitably, announcements such as this beg the question of whether there is such a thing as a free lunch and if not how the service will be paid for. In the press release, an asterisk following the words “...no cost to consumers” says “setup charges or hardware deposits may be required” so here is one caveat. Further on we read that “Quika Free will be supported by Quika’s commercial activities” presumably Quika’s Start and Plus services for SMEs and ISPs about which we reported last year.
To what extent SMEs and ISPs in developing countries, who are themselves not necessarily wealthy organisations, will be willing and able to cross-subsidise Quika's free consumer service remains to be seen. To be sure some may see a benefit if it increases the potential customer base for their own businesses but getting the balance right will be critical for long term sustainability for this business model.
Quika wraps itself in the standard digital divide, connecting the unconnected to create a better world story. We all applaud this but, as they admit, they are by no means the first to have this idea: “While numerous initiatives have been implemented to bring unconnected communities online, a significant amount of people still remain unconnected. With Quika, we hope to accelerate internet adoption around the world and transform societies for the better.” Let’s hope this time it’s sustainable.