Kigali to become Africa’s first ‘wireless’ city in $7.7m deal

Monday December 21 2009

By KEZIO-MUSOKE DAVID

Kigali will soon go wireless after the government launched a $7.66 million wireless broadband (WiBro) facility that is set to make it the first “hot spot” capital city in Africa.

The facility, whose infrastructure been under construction for the past two years, will go commercial in three months.

The wireless Internet facility was built by Korea Telecom, South Korea’s largest fixed-line telephone operator and second-largest mobile carrier.

Korea Telecom clinched the $7.66 million deal in 2007 from the Rwandan government to build an infrastructure for the WiBro technology-based network.

“The launch marks the first entry of WiBro technology into Africa,” Korea Telecom executive vice president and head of global business Soo-Ho Maeng said.

Along with a number of similar projects in Africa, the South Korean company is also undertaking a $40 million project that commenced in 2008 to provide a network for Internet access in Rwanda called the Kigali Metropolitan Network.

The Kigali Metropolitan Network (KMN), which is laid on a fibre optic loop, is a large computer network that spans a metropolitan area.

It also provides Internet connectivity for local area networks in a metropolitan region, and connects them to wider area networks like the Internet.

Version of WiMax

WiBro on the other hand is a version of WiMax technology developed in South Korea. It allows Internet access at broadband speed even when a user is in motion.

During the launch, government officials said that a total of 46 government institutions are already enjoying the high speed Internet connectivity.

Rwanda Development Board chief executive John Gara said KMN is in line with the country’s Vision 2020 to promote and facilitate modern infrastructure development.

”This technology will cater for data, voice and video transmission, plus other value added services that the market may require. With this type of technology, we will be able to provide connection to homes, businesses and also stimulate the private sector through affordable and reliable service,” Mr Gara said.

The Kigali Metropolitan project is meant to extend broadband availability to more than 700 institutions including schools, health-care centres and local government administrative centres.

RDB’s deputy chief executive in charge of information technology, Patrick Nyirishema, said the project would be completed by next year after a trial period of three months.

“The completion of this project brings us to a very important step — we are now set to roll out a 2,300-kilometre national backbone connecting the entire country. This will subsequently prepare us to link internationally to more affordable and higher capacity submarine cables at the East African coast,” he added.

The national backbone is expected to link 36 main points in Rwanda’s 30 districts.

The government is targeting gain access to high speed Internet for more than 4 million Rwandans within the next two to three years, partly facilitated by the WiBro project.

The country recently benefited from a $24 million World Bank loan facility to establish its capacity to provide broadband connectivity and access to low-cost international connectivity.

Korea Telecom is a prominent South Korean integrated wired and wireless telecommunication service provider.

It has developed an information and communications business for the past 25 years.

The company also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Algerian government this month to build an Internet network for government offices.

It also clinched a $29 million project to install a broadband wireless network in Sidi Abdela, west of Algiers.