Johannesburg - Ellies Holdings expected to attract between 2 000 and 3 000 subscribers in the first year after its satellite broadband services went live, chief executive Wayne Samson said yesterday.

The listed manufacturer and distributor of electrical products bought a 50 percent stake in satellite service provider Skyevine nearly two years ago. It aims to attract consumer and business customers who seek an alternative to third-generation (3G) wireless connectivity and asymmetric digital subscriber line services that offer fast connection over copper lines. Internet service provider iBurst will provide the internet services.

Ellies’ nearest competitor for satellite broadband services is Vox Telecom, although its satellite operates on the Ka band, which is a concentrated band focusing primarily on urban areas. Samson said the Ellies offering used the Ku band, which included coverage of rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa.

The firm has established Ellies Connect, a shop-within-a-shop brand that will be rolled out in Builders Express and Builders Warehouse stores countrywide. It is a physical contact point for customers to interact with the services.

“We saw the need for internet connectivity” was the reason Samson gave for launching the broadband services.

Ellies Connect has three different components – entertainment, hardware and connectivity – and will offer fast internet, fax-to-email, a product allowing consumers to send SMSes directly from their computer, and a voice line service, which allows users to make and receive voice calls from their computer or a dedicated voice-over-internet telephone.

The firm has structured packages for individuals and business, including hardware installation and data services.

Spiwe Chireka, the programme manager for telecoms in Africa at the International Data Corporation, said satellite costs had dropped in recent years and business for broadening satellite services to consumers was stronger. She added that the cost of certain satellite services, including making a telephone call using voice over internet protocol over internet access on satellite, was considered to be cheaper than calls made on 3G cellular telephone technology, for example. “What has made satellite expensive is the equipment you need,” she added.

Ellies has traditionally manufactured and imported electronic products related to television reception, including satellite and terrestrial aerial ranges, as well as audio, electronic and electrical products and accessories.

It has also established a division, Ellies Renewable Energy, providing energy equipment to the market. It offers infrastructural power in the area of power generation, transmission and distribution.

The company said it would offer access to digital terrestrial television provided by Platco, an OpenView high definition digital television platform. Ellies Connect would allow it to interact with a new customer base and partner businesses, including individuals.

The stock gained 1 percent to close at R7.05 on the JSE. - Business Report