25 April 2018

Rwanda: More Kigali Households Get Fibre Optic Coverage

Photo: New Times
Telecom workers install fibre optic cables in Kigali. Liquid Telecom, a regional data, voice and IP service provider, has a mission of spreading reliable internet access to homes across Kigali.

Liquid Telecom, a regional data, voice and IP service provider, has a mission of spreading reliable internet access to homes across Kigali and this is fast becoming a reality.

The company set a target of making sure at least 20,000 households get access to broadband internet and, so far, more than half have access right outside their doorsteps.

In various neighbourhoods across the city, one cannot miss the internet connection points and cables, all part of an initiative dubbed Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH).

Stanley Magede, the Chief Technical Officer at Liquid Telecom, told The New Times that before the end of the next financial year, the roll-out of broadband network around Kigali city households will have been completed.

"We have a target of covering over 20,000 households in Kigali, but so far, we have covered 11,000 households. We recently completed Rukiri I & II in Remera sector. We are now turning focus to Kimironko and nearby suburbs," Magede said, adding that the next step is to ramp up utilisation.

The FTTH initiative is an ambitious plan to extend high-speed internet to the city dwellers and in the long run, to the country's secondary cities.

The multi-million project is expected to power businesses and consumers.

"We need fibre in this day and age. In the past, people thought that fibre was only meant for office, but we are saying that we must get a good experience not just in the office but also at home. There is much more we can do with a good connection," Magede emphasised.

Already, city dwellers living in neighborhoods where Fibre-to-the-Home has been deployed can access broadband internet.

The official disclosed that most people frequently using Netflix, a movie-streaming platform, are using Liquid broadband internet. The platform closing in on having 2,000 users.

Dioscore Shikama is one of the users of Liquid Telecom FTTH, having subscribed to a Rwf70,000 monthly package. He thinks fibre is more reliable than other versions of internet.

"I would say fibre is quite good compared to other internet, and looking at how much I spend per month, it is a fair price because it is a package that can serve five people or seven," he said.

The firm has presently connected areas like Kagugu, Gisozi, Nyarutarama, Kacyiru, Rebero, Rugando, Kiyovu, Gacuriro, Vision City, Gishushu, Kimihurura, Gikondo Estate, and Kibagabaga.

Louis-Antoine Muhire, one of the tech startup owners in Kigali, said that the introduction of fibre connection has the potential to change the way they do business.

Long-awaited solution

"Particularly, for the tech industry that sometimes relies on multiple computing systems, fiber connection is the long-awaited solution to stabilise some services like selling airtime, payment of some utility bills on e-commerce platform," he said.

Muhire's company is an example of the many startups that rely on internet to sell services. He runs Mergims, a startup that enables people in the diaspora to pay water and electricity bills, airtime and tuition, among others.

Because of unreliable internet, he said, "we were considering to ditch electricity (cash power) top-up service as it was often interrupted by unreliable internet connection."

He believes that this would also pave the way for penetration of further broadband services in the country.

Stimulating demand

But to be able to attract more people to use the high-speed internet that is being rolled out across the city, Liquid Telecom is trying to stimulate the demand, especially among household users through introduction of cloud-based services.

The firm partnered with Microsoft Corporation this year to start offering cloud-based solutions to enterprises and individuals.

"What we are doing is to bring in cloud-based solutions, which are our everyday solutions. The majority of people around the world use Microsoft products, and so to stimulate demand, we partnered with Microsoft," Magede said.

Currently, Liquid is also working with startups, most of whom urgently need such solutions to grow. By doing so, the company plans to jointly develop solutions that suit local people in Rwanda. This is part of their long-term game, not only in Rwanda but across Africa.

It is predicted that, as technology continues to grow, most of the tasks will be performed on the internet. People will no longer be required to walk to offices daily, they will not necessarily be required to access health services from hospitals, and everything will not be business as usual.

"When you look at your bill of entertainment, the bill for communication, the bill used for transport travelling to office to do the work that sometimes maybe done from home, and other costs, you will realise that fast internet can do all this. We are working to design packages that will include what people mostly spend time on," the official said.

At the moment, Liquid, one of the leading telecommunication firm in the region, is also working with its sister company, Kwesé TV, to develop a platform for satellite television and internet-based television.

It is something, once completed, that will give users of Liquid Telecom FTTH a competitive advantage, particularly access to more than 100 television channels, including Netflix and iflix packages, they say.

By the end of this financial year, Liquid Telecom plans to have covered at least 15,000 households in Kigali. The project will potentially transform the way people do business once completed.

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