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The quest for lower Bandwidth costs for African Universities A case of the African Virtual University PI’s & Partnership Supported Universities By SANDRA ALUOCH firstname.lastname@example.org
Background • The AVU was established in 1997 as a World Bank project to dramatically increase access to tertiary education by utilizing ICTs. • The AVU has received funding from the EU, NORAD, Ireland, US Gov., AusAID, DfID, CIDA & the World Bank. • Currently provides education programs at undergraduate and professional development programs. • Provides access to online educational materials with an online digital library with over 1,000 full text journals • Access to high speed Internet services • Learning Centers with multimedia PC’s
Content delivery: Past, Present and Future • PROOF OF CONCEPT (1997-2001) • 100% delivery by satellite video broadcasting (synchronous and asynchronous) • Interaction 90% using telephone • PRESENT (2002-2005) • Video broadcasting (synchronous and asynchronous) • On-line Learning (WebCT) • Interaction by email, discussion forums, on-line chat (90%) and telephone (10%) • FUTURE (2006-) • On-line learning integrating video, voice and multimedia data • VSAT for high speed Internet access Major shift from video broadcasting only to mixed mode delivery
Why Connectivity? • Internet Connectivity critical for Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) and used for: • Communication (email) • Collaboration (discussion forums, chat) • Course and content delivery (online learning) • Academic management of courses • Access to educational resources (e.g. digital library)
Challenges - Connectivity • Poor, unreliable and expensive • Few satellites covering whole of Africa • Limited fiber access • Typical University has 64 Kbps leased line at average of $1,000 per month or $15 per kbps per month • Almost never dedicated • Average for African Universities- about $10 per kbps Affects delivery, interaction and access to learning resources e.g. digital library
Searching for solutions • AVU conducted research and surveys • Commissioned independent consultants (2002 and 2003) • Determine feasibility of KU-band VSAT systems and low cost VSAT alternatives • Review satellite coverage over Africa • Review technology options • Determine feasibility of AVU own hub, location and cost • Undertake bandwidth and hardware cost survey • Undertake licensing regime survey • Design and optimize network • Develop technical specification for RFP • Evaluate proposals • Provide input to contract negotiations
VSAT was only viable solution short to medium term C-Band more feasible than Ku Band Higher availability, larger single beam coverage C- Band capacity is minimal Upfront reservation/ commitment may be required Significant costs reduction realized only when full transponder loading achieved Under $3 per kbps for ~100 MBPS Longer commitment terms can reduce costs over 5 years African Universities (and institutions generally) have poor reputations for payment Providers likely to demand large guarantees Fiber very expensive Costs over $4 per kbps without landing fees VSAT licensing can be an impediment due to regulatory issues in some countries Lobby governments Issues of sustainability critical Develop clear business plans, bandwidth management policies and practices Important findings
AVU VSAT Installations Phase 1 • Kenya: AVU headquarters 160K/256 Kbps • Kenya: Kenyatta University 96K/384 Kbps • Ghana: University of Cape Coast 96K/384 Kbps • Ghana: Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration 128/512 Kbps • Ethiopia: Addis Ababa University 32/128 Kbps
AVU VSAT Installations Phase 2 • Burundi - Université Lumiere • Benin - Université d’ Abomey Calavi • Mauritania - Université de Nouakchott • Senegal -Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis • Senegal- Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar • Niger- Universite Abdou Moumouni • Rwanda - Universite Nationale du Rwanda • Rwanda – Kigali Institute of Science & Tech • Mali- Universite de Bamako • Burkina Faso- Universite de Ouagadougou All receiving 64/128 Kbps
Moves to date • Contracted by Partnership for Higher Education in Africa • How to acquire and benefit from lower bandwidth costs • AVU given mandate by VC to negotiate for and obtain lower pricing • With World Bank support started ATICS initiative • Survey of 83 universities across Africa to date • Database of African Universities and ICT and connectivity information www.atics.info
AVU findings • AVU developed and floated tender for the Partnership supported Universities • Consortium approach utilized • University of Dar es Salaam • Makerere University • Eduardo Mondlane University • University of Ghana • University of Education • Ahmadu Bello University • Obafemi Awolowo University • Bayero University • University of Ibadan • University of Jos • University of Port Harcourt • Association of African Universities • KENET
Consortium Approach • Consolidating (aggregating) bandwidth needs can achieve • economies of scale, • greater bargaining leverage • command volume discounts
Challenges of the VSAT network • Payment of recurring charges • Setup of the Local Area Networks (LAN) • Cost of the service • Bandwidth management • Equipment costs
Way forward • AVU to continue negotiating for lower bandwidth pricing and pass discounts to Universities in the network • Maintenance and Sustainability • Provide comprehensive technical support for all the centers with VSAT • Local Area Networks redesign and implementation • Assist in the formulation, recommendation and implementation of ICT policies that provide for network setup, operations, bandwidth monitoring, control and management.