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Hughes Inks $25M Africa Contract

In its second deal out of Africa in as many months, Hughes Network Systems (HNS) has won a $25 million contract from Ethiopia Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) to build a nationwide distance learning network.

Installation began in June and will run until the end of 2004. Once complete, it will connect schools across the country.

Additionally, the network will support applications such as video-conferencing, Internet and intranet access and voice-over Internet protocol for government and private enterprise customers.

Neither HNS nor ETC representatives were immediately available for comment.

In a statement, the carrier's managing director, Ato Tesfaye Biru, said, "Satellite is the only solution that allows us to provide digital, always-on, reliable service no matter where our customers are."

The lack of infrastructure in some African countries creates opportunities for satellite companies. Some governments without resources to build landline networks, are embracing the technology to play catch-up. Some of the remote terminals in ETC's network will be use solar power.

Last month, Germantown, Md.-based HNS signed a contract to provide a satellite telephony network for Gabon Telecom to connect all the railway stations in that country.

Other companies are also noticing Africa. Gilat Satellite Networks will enter the Kenyan market this year with its satellite service. IP Direct, a startup in South Africa, recently announced plans to offer broadband satellite services, initially to West Africa and eventually the whole continent.