On Wednesday, November 12, 2003, Pam McLean wrote:

> Ben Parker asked about experiences on solar powered VSAT
> I don't have time to give details now but can't let the question go by
> without brief reference to the Solo. It is designed for rural Africa. I
> saw the second generation prototype during field trials in Oke-Ogun. I
> undertand that some pre-production versions are now under assembly. Not
> being a "techie" I don't know if there is any difference between "VSAT"
> and the satelite connection that Solo was making use of then.

Pam, thanks for the insight. Satellite phones can definitely be used for
internet connections. For many examples try this google search:


There's no necessity to use a Solo computer for this ... all of the
satellite phones that provide data will work with any laptop.

There's definitely a difference between VSAT and satellite phone. A VSAT
link is like a leased line ... it's a permanent connection to the
internet that you lease by the month. For the period of the lease you
may use it as often as you like, you can saturate the connection 100% of
the time if you like, the price is fixed at a monthly rate.

With satellite phone you're paying ... buy the minute. Probably a couple
of dollars a minute. So, if your use is sporadic and for very short
periods at a time, it may be cheaper than VSAT. That said, VSAT links
are usually in the range of $100-$300 a month depending on where you
are, that's for the slowest connections of VSAT which are still just as
fast as the fastest satellite phone. Satellite phones max out at 144kbps
but are more typically 9.6kbps, or 56kbps.

> As a potential purchaser I know I won't get hold of one until someone in
> Africa sets up a small, locally financed  company, to do small scale
> assembly (about 100 units a month). The ethos behind Solo development is
> not just to make the *end product* available in rural Africa, but to
> *benefit local economies* and to *enable technology transfer through
> local assembly*. It is an imaginative combination of leading edge
> technology and cottage industry scale assembly! Hurdles to be overcome
> are things like problems relating to getting components through customs,
> and getting a critical mass of initial orders, to give a small company
> the confidence to go forward. That's why I keep plugging the Solo  - I
> want one, and I want the project I support in Oke-Ogun to be able to get
> them - so I need other people to want them too.

I hope you succeed, but I have to say I'm doubtful that the Solo
computer will ultimately prove to be cheaper or better than a laptop.
Keeping in mind that a local economy can develop around laptops too ...
maybe not building but selling, servicing. And most of the world's
laptops are built in just a few factories in Taiwan anyway ;-)


www.simonwoodside.com :: www.openict.net :: www.semacode.org
                      99% Devil, 1% Angel

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