Four billion people across the globe – both within and outside of the developing world – remain underserved or wholly unconnected. Investment firm Granahan McCourt Capital is working to drive global connectivity through government partnerships. We met with Chairman and CEO, David C. McCourt, also Chairman at Skyware Technologies, to hear more.
- How do you see the role of the satellite industry changing as companies such as Facebook disrupt?
Governments and the private sector need to come together to find the best solutions for providing connectivity. Facebook is providing its own solutions, using a mixture of technology that is largely made up of satellites and drones. Their motivations are right, and their approach is interesting, but it’s not going to fix the entire breadth of connectivity problems across the developing world. To do this, we need more projects where public sector states, who have the interest of their citizens at heart, and private sector telecom experts join forces.
As broadband becomes increasingly expensive in less dense areas, emerging public-private partnerships will likely use a similar mixture of technology, and make connectivity viable in underserved areas. As more governments pursue these models to ensure their citizens have access to all of the opportunities that connectivity grants, we’ll begin to see true progress being made at a rapid rate. This is the kind of model Granahan McCourt Capital is pursuing.
- What are the aims of GMC over the next 5 years?
Granahan McCourt Capital has spent 2016 developing and implementing a range of innovative and exciting projects. Our subsidiary enet is shortlisted for Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, a €1.5 billion tender to provide ultra-fast internet access across rural Ireland. We’ve also secured a milestone public-private partnership through Skyware Technologies with King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST), the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia.
The next five years will be equally exciting as we continue to provide broadband and other forms of connectivity to underserved people around the globe. We’ll pursue new opportunities to form public-private partnerships with governments all over the world. In media, we’re increasingly focussing on content. The launch of ALTV.com, our video streaming service and social media platform, was a substantial milestone of 2016. Moving forward it will provide creatives across the Middle East, North Africa – and soon Sub-Saharan Africa and South America – with the resources and training needed to create professional-quality content relevant to their audiences.
Granahan McCourt Capital is at the forefront of cutting edge technology as we pursue focused investments in big data and mobile crowdsourcing, finding new ways to use technology to disrupt markets around the world.
- How do you see the role of the operator change when working with rural communities?
Regardless of location, the role of the operator is to provide the best service possible.
The formula we’re seeing in Ireland is a model we’re looking to replicate all over the world by different states with common objectives. Ireland is still relatively underserved, and the National Broadband Plan aims to extend high-speed broadband across Ireland over the next five years. enet worked in conjunction with the plan, launching a 1Gb/s fibre broadband network. We have created an operating model with a genuinely open-access network that any service provider can utilise, making it easier and cheaper for previously underserved people to gain access to world-class connectivity.
- Collaboration is a key topic in VSAT at the moment, how do you see this happening in practice?
Providers are often hesitant to work in the developing world and in rural areas due to economic reasons, leading to a growing number of public-private partnerships as governments seek to provide their citizens with connectivity.
These partnerships often incorporate a mixture of technologies; as broadband networks are costly to establish. From an investment perspective, many private companies enter them for the wrong reason. Governments take policy seriously and should work with trusted providers like Granahan McCourt Capital who have demonstrated their commitment to long-term solutions through previous partnerships.
Partnerships are the future for major telecom projects, particularly in areas where connectivity is very poor or non-existent. Partnerships with governments are needed to attract the right commercial partners to provide the best solutions to these types of problems.
- You recently chaired a panel discussion at VSAT Global on the role of satellite connectivity in remote areas. What was the main message you brought to the discussion?
There have been two major advances in the evolution of satellite. Firstly, the improvement of terminal economics has allowed costs to come down. Secondly, an increased number of high throughput satellites have allowed for more sophisticated product offerings at increased speeds.
These two things have removed the barriers on cost and speed, and are making satellite a viable option for a significant proportion of the 4bn underserved.
David C. McCourt is Chairman and CEO of TMT investment firm, Granahan McCourt Capital. He is also founder of advanced integrated terminal solutions and satellite RF electronics firm, Skyware Technologies, and new online digital TV platform ALTV.com. View his speaker profile on VSAT Global.