EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Kyle, Avanti is no doubt a leading satellite technology provider in EMEA, tell us more about your latest projects and how Avanti has evolved over the recent years to meet changing user needs.
Kyle Whitehill: Across the globe, there are currently 3.7 billion people living without connectivity. Avanti’s mission is to create a sustainable business focused on connecting Africa, where two-thirds of the population are currently being left behind. We have a significant presence on-the-ground in Africa and over the past four years, we have transformed our business and quadrupled our revenue to help reach this long-term goal.
Improving access to connectivity requires collective action and, as the number one high throughput satellite company in Africa, Avanti is leveraging the power of strategic partnerships to accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband solutions across the continent.
For example, we are currently working with Free in Senegal to build and host a new satellite gateway in Senegal that will extend the coverage of Avanti’s latest satellite, HYLAS 4, to West Africa.
The gateway will provide services to local mobile network operators (MNOs) to help them extend their reach into rural areas and other semi-urban locations where networks are currently limited or unreliable. The expanded coverage will significantly increase access to high-speed satellite internet for the countries’ schools, hospitals and communities, as well as provide satellite backhaul services to Avanti’s carrier customers.
It is a huge milestone that highlights our continued commitment to empowering local partners and improving access to connectivity in areas that are often overlooked.
EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Competition in the satellite service industry has been becoming fierce, what are some of the latest trends that you’ve been observing? What is Avanti’s competitive advantage?
Kyle Whitehill: When it comes to rural connectivity, one of the biggest barriers local MNOs face is a lack of infrastructure and terrestrial networks. Helping to create a strong digital infrastructure globally is vital, and Avanti is well-equipped to do the job. Our fleet of 5 Ka-band satellites offer 50Ghz capacity and cover more than 1.7bn people in 118 countries across EMEA.
Central to our work is supporting local partners and we are already rolling out rural and ultra-rural backhaul with some of Africa’s largest MNO and Tower Companies. These will deliver more than 1,500 rural sites across Nigeria, West Africa, South Sudan, Ghana and South Africa. We are also the only Ka-band satellite provider with gateways in Nigeria, Johannesburg and Senegal which gives us a significant competitive advantage.
Our newest managed satellite service, Avanti EXTEND, provides high-performance and cost-effective 2G, 3G and 4G solutions to remote and hard-to-reach areas across sub-Saharan Africa. This enables customers to provide reliable cellular service to the 100 million people living in these challenging locations that would otherwise be impossible to reach using traditional terrestrial infrastructure.
We are also continuing to bring enterprise-grade products and services to market, with a focus on hybrid network products and services that combine satellite – GEO, MEO & LEO – and terrestrial network capabilities. We believe hybrid networks are critical to the future of the industry.
EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Avanti has expanded business in various countries, where do you see the greatest potential? Where is the growth going to come from?
Kyle Whitehill: A quarter of the world’s population is predicted to live in Africa by 2050, and as the number one high throughput satellite company in Africa, Avanti is perfectly placed to unlock this growth.
Across our HYLAS fleet, more than 70% of our coverage is over Africa and we have committed 75% of our total investment to help connect Africa and power socioeconomic growth, totaling USD 897 million.
As Africa is expected to become one of the largest telecom markets in the world, addressing the digital divide across the continent is crucial to unlocking opportunities and generating economic growth.
EUROPEAN BUSINESS: COVID-19 is still a worldwide threat, but covid has significantly accelerated digital transformation and communication technologies development, can you talk about how has COVID-19 impacted the industries and your business?
Kyle Whitehill: COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone, but even more so for those living in unconnected communities. Whilst COVID-19 did accelerate digital transformation and communication technology has evolved, a large proportion of society has become even further removed from the modern digital world and what it has to offer. This has highlighted the need for global inequalities to be levelled out so that we can address the digital divide and improving access to cost-effective connectivity solutions is just one way that we can help tackle this.
At Avanti COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Overnight, we became a fully remote organization, something which previously we didn’t think was possible, specifically for those that work in spacecraft operations. We now operate flexibly and have seen the many positive ways in which this has affected our employees day to day.
EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Can you expand on the work Avanti is doing to improve access to education across the continent?
Kyle Whitehill: An initiative we are particularly proud of is iMlango, a consortium project that Avanti leads. The partnership has been ground-breaking in improving education outcomes in maths, literacy, and life skills for marginalised school children in Kenya. Since it began, more than 180,000 students have benefited from real-time, adaptive content, and thousands of teachers have been trained to implement technology in their school environment.
We have also seen first-hand the positive impact access to connectivity can have through our partnership with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) on The Girls’ Education Awareness Programme. Here, we use connectivity to help break down some of the barriers to education a large proportion of young girls are faced with in rural and ultra-rural areas.
Through social marketing, we drive awareness and behaviour change around social norms keeping girls from school, strengthening efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. SDG 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by providing children and young people with easily accessible education and other learning opportunities.
The success of such projects has highlighted the vital role connectivity can play in improving educational outcomes for marginalised groups, and in tackling the global education crisis that is holding so many people back. It has the power to unlock opportunities and shape lives by empowering individuals and communities to flourish.
EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Kyle, please tell us about yourself, your personal experience. Can you share something about your career journey and what inspires you about being in this industry?
Kyle Whitehill: I joined Avanti in April 2018 as the Group Chief Executive Officer, when the business was going through a pivotal time of transformation and growth. I don’t believe there’s been a more exciting time to work in space as now; the demand for connectivity had never been greater and the UK is playing a significant part in innovating our industry. The landmark launch of Cosmic Girl for example, carrying the UK’s first every rocket into space from Cornwall’s Newquay Airport on an ex-aircraft.
Prior to joining Avanti, I was CEO of Liquid Telecom South Africa. My core focus was operational excellence, customer experience and talent investment, which resulted in some significant company growth during my tenure. I was also at Vodafone Group for 16 years, where I held various senior leadership positions, including CEO of Vodafone Qatar, CEO of Vodafone Ghana and COO of Vodafone India. My career to date has given me extensive experience in the FMCG, mobile, fixed and converged products industries.