Thousands of automated teller machines (ATMs) in Saudi Arabia are to be linked using Intelsat’s broadband satellite services to be provided by Detecon al-Saudia (Detesad).

“Very small aperture terminal (VSAT) is a natural solution complementing terrestrial connections for banking services as it provides greater reliability and security,” Jean-Philippe Gillet, Intelsat vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, tells MEED.

Besides linking up ATMs in Saudi Arabia, the expanded contract between Intelsat and Detesad will allow the provision of satellite broadband services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), maritime operators, oil and gas companies, government agencies and Internet service providers (ISPs).

Satellite, though frequently seen as more expensive than terrestrial or microwave connectivity, is the most common option for linking entities that are located in sparsely populated remote areas where laying down expensive fibre-optic cables is hard to justify, as well as in offshore locations.

“VSAT is usually the last choice for providing additional connectivity,” says Gillet. “We work with mobile network operators (MNOs) across the region to enable them to meet their customer requirements… we help them address issues whether it’s about reachability or [augmenting their capabilities during] peak demand.”

Mobile data traffic across the Middle East Africa is expected to accelerate by 71 per cent by 2020, with mobile users expected to reach 879 million in 2020 from an estimated 709 million in 2015, according to a report by US technology firm Cisco.

In terms of potential access and use of their networks by terror-related groups in the region, Gillet explains that they consistently work with governments across the Middle East region to ensure the highest level of security in terms of network usage and access. “We have clear obligations to provide security especially when dealing with government entities… we have the highest possible level of security built-in into our network,” explains Gillet.