Kenya will be the first country in Africa to benefit from affordable high speed 4G internet in rural areas, thanks to a partnership between Harare-based tech company Econet Group and Google X’s connectivity project dubbed Taara.
The plan that seeks to ultimately reach remote communities across Sub-Saharan Africa is using a revolutionary new optical wireless technology and will be deployed in Coastal Kenya first through Econet’s subsidiary Liquid Telecom.
Liquid Telecom and X have been running pilot tests of the technology in Kenya since 2019 across the waters between Mombasa Old Town and Diani in Kwale County to deliver high speed bandwidth to communities living in the South Coast.
The coastal region was chosen due to the existing high number of both local and foreign tourists who also work remotely and require 4G internet connectivity, but the project will be rolled out to the rest of the country’s remote zones.
Nic Rudnick Liquid Telecoms CEO says that the trials have shown encouraging results of how to reach new underserved areas with huge bandwidths and strong network reliability.
“Every time we have connected a new country to our fibre network, our investment into middle mile infrastructure has enabled people outside of the major cities and towns, to enjoy high speed data,” he said.
Project Taara, a project at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory, leverages on the use of beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances.
In the same way traditional fibre uses light to carry data through cables in the ground, Taara will be using light to transmit information at speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second as a very narrow, invisible beam. This beam is sent between two small Taara terminals to create a link.
“Taara’s links offer fibre-like speed internet access in areas where it’s not economically viable, or too difficult to install fibre, for example, over rivers, sea straits, mountains, rugged terrains, across national parks, or in areas where it is unsafe to dig trenches for cables,” a statement seen by Afcacia reads.
Fibre networks require backup links in order to provide 100 per cent availability, and by delivering fibre-like speeds, Taara links seek to offer an effective fibre backup solution where there is no other viable backup fibre route.
Microwave and satellite backup are often not able to keep up with bandwidth demand for city to city links.
Econet and Liquid Telecom said they will make the technology available to other telecoms customers, namely Mobile Networks, Internet Service Providers and National Research Education Networks in Africa.
But Econet will deploy the technology in Africa across Liquid Telecom’s Fibre Optic Backbone and Mobile Network Infrastructure starting in Kenya, because of the country’s high percentage of tech-savvy population.
Norman Moyo , Econet’s Executive for New Enterprises said the move forms an important building block towards a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind.
“We look forward to working with Econet and its subsidiaries to help bring the transformative power of the internet to more communities in the region,” said Mahesh Krishnaswamy, Taara Project Lead at X.