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Is Liquid Telecom using multiple technologies to accelerate universal broadband?


Being the largest installer of independent fiber network in Africa Liquid Telecom has found out ways to deal with challenges involved in laying fiber in the continent. The company’s target is to provide broadband Internet to entire continent.


 Liquid Telecom has deployed a range of technologies to provide the best connectivity ever in the continent. This is to Ben Roberts CEO Liquid Telecom Kenya speaking during the 12th Annual East AfricaCom Conference held in Nairobi on 6th of May 2015. 


Liquid Telecom installation spans to about 20,000km across Africa. Kenya alone spans to about 5000km where the company has laid fiber in almost 40 of counties out of 47 in entire country which is about 80 percent of internet connection and access.


East Africa topography, unfavorable climatic conditions and frequenting floods is what adds to cost to digging and laying fiber. The cost goes up to Ksh.17 000 from the typical Ksh.10 000 per meter and it makes it uneconomical to lay fiber in remote part of Kenya with little user density.


 “There is a need to make cheap reliable broadband available to the mass market, and investors must work around obstacles that hinder connectivity for those who may need it in isolated areas such as quarries, tea estates and safari lodges,” said Mr. Roberts. 


Today, broadband penetration in Kenya stands at about 0.1 per cent. It is far below the global average of 9.4 per cent as per the State of Broadband Report 2014.


 These contrast the Kenya’s position of having amongst the highest overall Internet penetration and use in Africa. It reflects the technical and financial challenges of highest quality connection delivery across a broad range of terrains and needs. 


Investors in Kenya’s growing Internet infrastructure grapple with excessive costs in laying fiber optic in the country. It accounts for up to 80 per cent of project costs, according to the European Commission. 


The company is now pioneering advanced VSAT. It is Very Small Aperture Terminal technologies, and wireless networks, undertaking 151 VSAT installations. Already over 380 wireless installations across Kenya in the last two years to ensure that broadband connectivity is available beyond urban areas.


Liquid Telecom mission has been focus on both its fiber infrastructure and on other advanced technologies. It is meant to optimize the quality and cost of hi-speed connectivity. This is where fiber costs prove prohibitive.


VSAT presents the best alternative to fiber connectivity that beats the challenge of last mile connectivity. It connects customers directly to the Internet without the need to rely on additional technologies. It also offers a solution in regions without full electricity, requiring power only at the premises where it is in use.


About 73 per cent of the population of Kenya lacks access to electricity, as reported by the Rural Electrification Authority therefore Liquid telecom is adding a vital additional tool in targeting universal connectivity.


“The reliability and efficiency of VSAT continues to make it ideal for boosting broadband in Africa as fiber optics is used as a backbone for connectivity. Its biggest advantages are that it is easier to activate and bypasses a host of exchanges and interconnections, drastically lowering potential points of failure,” said Mr. Roberts. 


Liquid Telecom use of diverse technologies has additionally is driven by key advances in VSAT technology to reduced data prices as a new generation of satellites is brought into commission. The new satellites known as High Throughput Satellites (HTS) allows a dramatic increase in the number of customers to be served within a geographical area on a limited amount of spectrum.


On average 30 per cent of the current cost per gigabit supplied is Capable of delivering speeds of 100 Mbps. HTS makes VSAT comparable to terrestrial services on price as well as bandwidth. Roberts added that the VSAT is also connected to Liquid Telecom’s fiber and multiprotocol label switching core network to maintain high performance.


 He further said it only with this triple thrust of expanded fiber laying, advanced VSAT technology, and offshoot wireless networks, can the company truly drive connectivity across the entire region and the continent and continue to reduce costs to consumer and to boost the economic impact of the Internet for all.

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