Rwanda: Liquid Telecom Shares Its Vision (incl TV)

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Internet: forever a challenge in Rwanda. We have all been in that situation; switching from carrier to carrier, waiting in vain for our email to load. Apologizing to friends or colleagues for the 'slow network' is commonplace. Poor Internet connectivity does not just hamper our efforts to stream our favorite TV shows or browse photos on Facebook, it also has serious consequences in the workplace. With more systems and communications online, fast Internet has become a necessity in the office. Slow and spotty connectivity and high subscription prices take a toll on business.

Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT, explains that slow connectivity arises because "more than 90% of Internet users are on 2G and 3G" networks, connecting through USB modems or through hotspots. Additionally, "the home segment is still underserved, mainly through Wi-Max links which are usually shared by many users, resulting into slow speeds", says Nsengimana.

But things are changing fast. 4G-LTE access is expanding, as well as fiber-to-the-home. And recently, a new major player entered the Rwandan market. Liquid Telecom, the largest data, voice, and IP provider in eastern, southern, and central Africa, last year acquired the former Rwandatel's fiber optic infrastructure. With its regional operations led by the ambitious Sam Nkusi, the former minister of communications and one-time Rwandatel boss, Liquid connects its massive fiber network to Rwandan soil.

"We are a data-centric company. We own one of the largest and longest single fiber optic networks on the African continent, in over 13 countries", Nkusi explains. Liquid's network is indeed impressive. Traversing about 14,000 kilometers, the company connects Rwanda's 500 km fiber network with existing fiber networks leading to Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and all the way down to Cape Town.

"We are Africa's digital future," Nkusi likes to say. "We provide services beyond just the fiber. Everything below you as in fiber, above you as in satellite, around you as in wireless, we are providing all that".

Internet is undoubtedly a challenge in a landlocked country like Rwanda. But Nkusi says that is now changing: "Right now, for the first time, being landlocked has proved to be an advantage." Pointing to a map of Liquid's African fiber network, Nkusi shows Rwanda's multiple connections to sub-marine fiber lines, lines that go around the world, to New York, London, Mombasa, and that now connect east and west Africa. Quite literally, Liquid is connecting Rwanda to the rest of the world.

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Source: Rwanda Focus (Kigali) - BY Katherine Sullivan, 18 April 2014