Fostering Innovation In Education With Satellite Broadband
Satellite broadband is a key enabler of the delivery of educational services in remote regions of the world, especially in the era of remote learning.
In developing regions of the world, the challenge to balance the continuing operations of schools and universities amid the unprecedented demands on healthcare has never been tougher. During the pandemic, remote education became a necessity instead of a good to have. However, in the underserved regions where there is little or no internet access, this may be a practical impossibility.
The education sector needs to move fast to implement connectivity solutions that are reliable and widely available. Even today, the two largest economies in the APAC region – Indonesia and the Philippines – have 73.7 and 67% internet penetration respectively. In less developed countries, such as Papua New Guinea, only 15.2% of the population has internet access. By operating geostationary Ka-band broadband satellites, Kacific is helping to bring high-speed, affordable internet to enhance connectivity for these critically underserved sectors, and empower innovation in education and healthcare. We have worked with key educational institutions in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, including more than a dozen Adventist high schools, colleges, and nursing schools, to deliver dependable connectivity solutions. In these typically remote facilities, where there is rarely any fixed-line or mobile internet infrastructure, satellite broadband solutions have proven essential in the innovation and continuation of learning. With global coverage, geostationary satellites can help overcome some of the biggest connectivity challenges in the sector, such as:
- Losing the gap between remote learning and in-classroom learning
- Facilitating instant communication between teachers and remote learners
- Overcoming network congestion issues that can limit access to key information
- Delivering equitable education services to remote regions like island communities
- Providing modern education services to those who do not have internet themselves
- Ensuring the continuation of education during natural disasters
Why the education sector needs universal broadband connectivity
The modernization of education is a key driver of national development and progress, and digitization plays a central role in that process.
The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for educational institutions to deliver reliable access to information in remote learning environments and to allow students to participate meaningfully in their education both inside and beyond the classroom. However, a widespread lack of connectivity in the less developed nations of the APAC region has made the so-called digital divide a glaring problem that has the potential to threaten the integrity of education for many years to come.
Digital literacy is, after all, expected when it comes to higher education, hence the gap must be closed as early on as possible. Moreover, technological innovation in education can drive greater gender equality, especially in regions where girls are underrepresented in the classroom.
All educational technology (or ed tech) initiatives share the common goal of bringing equitable access to information to the classroom. For example, computer-based instruction necessitates the transmission of instruction modules to schools and remote learners, especially in a hybrid learning environment.
In the Philippines, Kacific has connected San Isidro National High School (SiNHS) in the Municipality of San Isidro, Province of Leyte. With Kacific’s Gigstarter plans, satellite broadband allowed the school to kick start their Virtual Regional SchoolBased Management System Validation (SBM) initiative. This allows the students and teachers to connect and in the teaching materials to grow alongside the rest of the regions.
With reliable broadband connectivity, SiNHS has achieved a School-Based Management practice of Level 3, making them a fully integrated and self-sustaining educational institution in the region today.
Interactive distance learning allows students and teachers to participate in broader learning programs, such as those that involve collaboration with classes in other regions. Providing educational materials goes beyond traditional textbooks to include a wealth of other engaging content, such as video and audio content. The list goes on.
How satellite broadband helps deliver equitable education
The APAC region faces some unique challenges and demands when it comes to connectivity in education and other sectors. With more than 10,000 inhabited islands in the region, it is a practical impossibility to deliver universal fixed-line internet connectivity. Mobile networks also have their limitations, especially as they have a limited range and are highly vulnerable to poor weather conditions during the monsoon season.
Satellite broadband is the key to solving the aforementioned connectivity challenges. Orbiting satellites in geostationary orbit offer a proven solution for relaying information between ground-based sending and receiving terminals. Although once considered a poor substitute for fixed-line and mobile terrestrial systems, satellite communications have evolved to the point where they can deliver a similar user experience in terms of speed and connection quality.
Moreover, they allow voice, video, and data to be sent anywhere in the world with a line of sight to the sky. This makes satellite internet the only truly viable solution for bringing connectivity to remote regions, as well as for providing connectivity even when existing terrestrial networks fail.
Kacific delivers satellite connectivity via the Ka-band frequency spectrum, which enables high quality and consistent performance to users across the APAC region.
For example, the Gigstarter service delivers unlimited connectivity to schools, college, and university campuses, and getting a 25-user plan can easily support a medium-sized school with approximately 50 computers. This means that with an affordable fee of USD 1,700, educators can connect the entire school with speeds up to 70Mbps, promoting Internet literacy and allowing access to remote learning or libraries. Governments and schools can choose to connect school-by-school, province-by-province with our turnkey Gigstarter plans.
Community WiFi then supplements this by providing a wider reach to classes and can connect up students from multiple classes and smartphones at a go. With a dedicated bandwidth which can connect an entire village, it can further promote access to the internet and proliferate smart phone and tablet usage for the province.
When the global pandemic hit, education needed to quickly shift from the classroom to online, making remote learning the only way to safely move forward. In places like Burias Island, this was a challenge for the local teachers and students as access to internet connectivity was only available in the far towns away from their local communities.
Getting connected previously involved climbing up a mountain or walking to a special place: Signalan (Signal Land) where they could get reception. Every day teachers and students had to pack food, tarpaulins (to protect them from rain), batteries, and power banks and walk to Signalan before they could start their lessons.
Supported by Kacific’s local resellers and distribution network, Joyce Flores and her students in the public school can now participate in the new-normal education setup by getting a Gigstarter solution from Kacific.
Now, they can easily access modules from the Department of Education, join digital training, and provide online learning opportunities for her students using fast and reliable satellite broadband, powered by Kacific.
Joyce Flores shares “As a teacher, internet connection is really a necessity in the new normal education setup. We are obliged to download from the Deped portal the soft copies of the modules to be printed and to be released in our modular distance learning.”
In partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Kacific has also worked to boost the bandwidth capacity of various Pacific Island states, such as in Vanuatu. In the past, satellite broadband was typically limited by extremely low bandwidth, making it unsuitable for use in most educational environments. However, thanks to improvements in the technology, high-throughput satellites, such as Kacfic1, launched in December 2019, can serve thousands of internet users simultaneously via 56 spot beams.
Satellite broadband also helps educational facilities overcome budgetary limitations. With the advent of more affordable, portable, and easy-to-install very small aperture terminals (VSATs), satellite connectivity is now cost effective. For educational institutions, improved connectivity also means enhanced growth and scalability. For example, facilities with dependable internet access can greatly reduce investments in physical learning materials in favor of digital content delivered over the web. Satellite broadband technologies have also improved to offer more reliable connectivity during periods of poor weather, which is vital given the extremely high rainfall during the monsoon season. Kacific uses several technologies, such as adaptive coding and modulation (ACM) to address these problems.
Easy and short deployment timelines
Perhaps the most significant advantage of all is the fact that satellite internet can be deployed in weeks rather than months and for a mere fraction of the cost of bringing terrestrial internet to entirely unserved areas. This is because VSAT terminals operate entirely independently of terrestrial infrastructure (or the lack thereof). They can even be solar-powered, making them suitable for use in areas where there may be regular power outages.
Moreover, networks can be expanded with ease, making it possible for schools to start at an initial pilot stage to connect a single classroom before expanding to cover entire campuses and multiple schools.
Kacific’s FlexVNO service, for example, allows multiple schools to be connected at the same time in the country or island. It delivers dedicated wholesale bandwidth which can rapidly connect hundreds of sites, regardless of how remote they are.
With FlexVNO, the speeds and bandwidth per school can also be adjusted easily, allowing any governments or Ministry of Education to direct capacity to schools with greater population and digital needs such as Universities and Junior High schools. Coupled with our small 75cm – 1.2m VSAT terminals, they can be easily transported and deployed at the schools and residential properties to facilitate online learning and access to web resources.
In areas where terrestrial internet is not available, and may well never be available, orbiting broadband satellites are key to bridging the digital divide once and for all.