Broadcast services in Africa are on the brink of significant growth in number of channels and services. This is on the back of growing demand from the increased number of TV homes, which is set to increase from 93 million in 2010 to 122 million by 2015 (Dataxis) . Digital TV is also expected to surge with the deadline for digital migration rapidly approaching. At the moment fewer than 10% of African TV homes have access to digital TV, while the number in Europe is 75%.

In terms of broadband connectivity, approximately 300 million people in Africa find themselves over 50 km from a fibre or cable broadband connection (the further from the connection, the worse the broadband quality). An additional 400 million people on the continent have no internet access at all, indicating that around 700 million people have limited or no access to broadband. While there are plans to increase fibre connectivity across the African continent by 2013 or 2014, satellite broadband has the advantage of reach, providing an efficient way of connecting the majority of the 700 million unconnected people.

This is according to Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, newly-appointed head of Africa for SES, leading global satellite operator.

"Satellite offers many benefits to a continent such as Africa, and SES is helping African regulators, governments, broadcasters and network operators to bridge the digital divide using satellite technology," said Guimba-Saidou. "SES satellites allow countries to reduce their infrastructure investment costs while providing consumers with high quality broadcasting and broadband services. Satellite technology provides nationwide coverage; cost-effective distribution independent of existing infrastructure and borders; is not limited to the number of people it reaches and handles all formats including digital, HDTV, 3D TV and IP."

Earlier this year SES announced its collaboration with Samsung to drive digital broadcasting via satellite in sub-Saharan Africa by introducing an LED television set with an integrated free-to-air satellite receiver. The set will first be distributed in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon in August this year. Other countries on the continent will follow.

The integrated satellite receiver will allow consumers to receive television channels for free without the need for an additional set top box as the LED screen will be directly connected with the satellite dish. In preparation for the TV's launch, SES and Samsung will jointly arrange training sessions with distribution partners and installers to ensure the proper connection of the TVs to satellite dishes, and will be embarking on marketing campaigns in June 2012.

The TV set has also been designed to withstand the impact of humidity, lightning and electricity surges through reduced power dependency. "This is innovation at its best, designed to help consumers in their homes," commented Guimba-Saidou. A further example of SES innovation is SAT-IP, which is a new IP-based satellite reception technology that demodulates and converts satellite signals for in-home distribution to any IP-enabled device. The SAT-IP communications protocol has been established as a new standard for satellite in-home distribution.

In a SAT-IP environment, IP-enabled devices such as tablets, PCs, laptops, smartphones, Connected TVs, game consoles and media players will be able to receive satellite programming. This means that consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of watching TV programmes on different devices and screens.

"In servicing more than 40 African countries, SES is well aware of the huge demand for greater services, both quality and quantity. The opportunity lies in providing a growing sophisticated African viewership with a significantly increased number of TV channels a first for many African countries and broadband services where previously none existed," said Guimba-Saidou.