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Rwanda: 4G Technology to Deliver the Broadband Promise
Source: The New Times
Source Date: Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Focus: Citizens’ Service Delivery
Country: Rwanda
Created: Jul 09, 2013

Rwanda is among a few countries in Africa set to roll-out a high-speed Fourth Generation (4G) broadband network that delivers download speed of up to 100 Megabytes per second.

The broadband speed is almost three times faster than those previously available in the country like 3G and 2G and there is no doubt that 4G networks, still not everywhere in many developed nations, will boost Rwanda's internet services.

Recently South Korea's largest telecom company, Korea Telecom, entered into an agreement with Rwanda to deploy 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network across the country, a development that will ensure fast, reliable and cheaper internet services.

The high speed wireless broadband technology builds on more than 3,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable that is rolled out across the country.

The optic cable that was laid in 2010 seeks to boost access to various broadband services, including applications such as e-governance, e-banking, e-learning and e-health, to become a key enabler of the set target to ensure Rwanda achieves middle-income status by 2017.

The joint venture between Rwanda and Korea Telecom includes a cooperation framework agreement that will see the development of broadband infrastructure within the next 25 years.

Leapfrogging tradition:

The 4G rollout in Rwanda is part of the country's trend of leapfrogging traditional fixed broadband by adopting current-generation mobile technology that will be accessed by every Rwandan citizen. According Claude K. Migisha, the General Manager of kLab, higher broadband penetration drives economic growth and helps the nation achieve social goals, such as improved education and health care outcomes for stance in countries like South Korea and Singapore.

kLab, an open technology hub for IT entrepreneurs located at Telecom House in Kacyiru, provides a platform for developers, IT enthusiasts and interested parties of a growing ICT community to collaborate and innovate.

Migisha added: "With more than 90 per cent of Rwandans accessing 4G LTE broadband, the service industry in Rwanda will significantly grow."

"Rwanda wants to become a service-based economy and as we move towards the digital age, 4G LTE broadband will not only facilitate local businesses but also bring opportunities to local content developers."

Migisha further said that Rwanda has invested heavily in ICT infrastructure and now it's time for the private sector to leverage this public investment and make it more affordable and accessible to the Rwandan citizens.

Accelerate growth:

"ICT sector globally is highly dependent on broadband for growth. High speed broadband boosts competitiveness for players in the ICT sector. 4G LTE broadband in Rwanda will accelerate growth for technology and communication development," he stated.

According to the 4G agreement, Korea Telecom will inject $140m (about Rwf91 billion) in infrastructure and expertise, while Rwanda will provide fibre optic network assets, spectrum and a wholesale licence.

The project commended by tech experts as an engine of hyper-connected world, is expected to cost about $260 million (about Rwf169 billion) within a period of five years.

The infrastructure also targets to cover 95 per cent of the population within three years, according to the joint venture deal that is based on an initial 25-year term

Rwanda's mobile network operators have been invited to invest in the project, and it is expected that the companies and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will provide retail access to the end users.

According to Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the Director General in charge of ICT in the Ministry of Youth and ICT, 4G LTE broadband is reasonably cheaper to deploy nationally than 3G broadband.

"The underlying technology is expected to replace 3G technology within the next few years so globally, all new network upgrades will be based on 4G LTE technologies," he said adding that, the network's affordability will be affected by many factors including tariffs charged at retail level and the cost of smart handsets and interface devices.

Nkurikiyimfura noted: "Tariffs are expected to be set at a level that strongly competes with the current 3G data tariffs. We can certainly affirm that with the uptake of the utilisation 4G broadband in Rwanda, and the competition between customer-facing retail companies, tariffs will become even more competitive and affordable for urban and rural customers."

According to Korea Telecom authorities, the 4G wholesale network service for mobile broadband will help to promote healthy competition for advanced retail services and solutions, and will benefit consumers, enterprises and the nation.

Ranking:

Last year, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report ranked Rwanda among top 10 countries in Africa with active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

According to ITU, 95 per cent broadband penetration will translate into a 10 to 13 per cent boost in Growth Domestic Product growth for Rwanda.

The broadband service providers in the country include MTN Rwanda, Tigo, Airtel, Broadband Systems Corporation, New Artel, Altech Stream and Rwandatel.

ITU estimates that 2.7 billion people-or 39 per cent of the world's population-will be using the Internet by end of 2013.

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