Over a period of 18 months, Vodafone Ghana and MTN Uganda will work with Fairwaves Inc., iSat Africa and NuRAN to test new mobile internet connectivity solutions for unconnected rural communities in Africa.
This project is an initiative of the GSMA through its Connected Society Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity that awarded grants of up to £330,000 to Fairwaves Inc., iSat Africa and NuRAN.
According to the GSMA, the goal is to deploy mobile broadband networks in rural areas. These will provide low-cost mobile internet coverage through commercially sustainable models that can be scaled and replicated in similar environments across the region.
The consortium will deliver solutions in six months and the remaining 12 months will be assigned to the host mobile operator to integrate the sites in their network, and for GSMA to monitor and evaluate the performance of the project.
“This collaboration is ground-breaking in its aims to connect unconnected communities in rural locations and deliver a range of essential digital services,” said Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA.
“The challenge is not only bringing mobile internet coverage to rural areas, which can be twice as expensive as in urban areas and with smaller revenue opportunities but to do so in a way that ensures long-term commercial sustainability. Innovation and partnership is essential to addressing this challenge, and the Innovation Fund, in association with the mobile ecosystem and government partners, is playing a key role in identifying new ways of using mobile technology to connect the unconnected.”
Gordian Kyomukama, chief technical officer at MTN Uganda said: “… through partnerships, we can change lives by improving digital access, driving financial inclusion, empowering and enabling SMEs, creating jobs and broad community development, all using the power of connectivity.”
Patricia Obo-Nai, chief executive officer, Vodafone Ghana, added that the initiative will extend mobile connectivity and access to communities within parts of northern Ghana.
“More than ever before, mobile communication has become the preferred means of staying connected with family as well as businesses. This initiative is in line with our objective to leave no one behind as we drive the digital transformation agenda in this ever-changing technological environment,” Obo-Nai said.
Aside from support from telcos, the consortium has received backing from regulators in both Ghana and Uganda, including the provision of land, as well as tax and duty exemptions for imported equipment.