media update’s Adam Wakefield was at the summit to hear what Justin Hewelt, global director at London-based media consultancy PayMedia, had to say about the current state of satellite dishes in terms of how long they'll still be in existence. 

Satellite dishes are being replaced by broadband, with OTT being the next step

A drive down any major road or residential area will show all types of dwellings sporting a satellite dish to access quality entertainment. During the summit, Hewelt told delegates that the time of satellite dishes are coming to an end as OTT services become more widespread through better broadband access.

“The truth is, the days of satellite dishes are numbered in certain markets. If you look at Spain, it's not long before satellite is effectively decommissioned,” he explained.

“That is because the national telco Telefonica is investing in fibre and 'fibre-ing' up way faster than anyone ever imagined.”

When looking at the South African and sub-Saharan markets, the question is, 'how long it will take for consumers to have reliable access to Internet connectivity?' The answer will dictate the availability of OTT streaming services.

Fibre is being rolled out in metropolitan areas, but Hewelt said that this rollout is taking place in mostly affluent communities.

“What I’m very keen to see in this marketplace is all the companies who are finding new ways of delivering reliable connectivity to people,” he said.

“Satellite in this [sub-Saharan Africa] marketplace, particularly in South Africa, really does have quite a long future – probably more than 10 years, maybe even 15. That’s because it really is a very cost-efficient way of covering huge amounts of territory.”

A strength of the South African market, due to its physical geography and fixed infrastructure not being rolled out very far, is wireless. Hewelt said that South Africa has almost 'skipped the fixed line' for everyday broadband usage.

“I had to do a video presentation in a conference centre [before the summit], and I went to the shop and bought a Cell C LTE 4G/5G router, and that allowed us to watch a video in HD,” Hewelt said.

“The wireless infrastructure is as effective, if not very close, to the level of speeds we have with fixed infrastructure in Europe.”

Audiences are changing, but not as much as you think

Satellite dishes gradually phasing out and younger generations growing up as tech natives has significant implications for how entertainment content is consumed. Hewelt asked if satellite dish operators were in a race against time to shift to OTT services in order to meet the needs of younger audiences.

One view, said Hewelt, is that as younger people settle down into more established relationships (have children, buy a home and acquire services and property that 'they can nest with'), they start behaving just like their parents

“But generationally, we shouldn’t underestimate the very different childhoods that every new generation has or how early they’ve been introduced to technology, or how often they’re used to having content available to them."

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