Liquid Telecom Rwanda is planning to invest $34 million (about Rwf24 billion) in Rwanda as part of its $200 million Africa expansion plans.
Sam Nkusi, the Liquid Telecom Rwanda chief executive officer, said the money will be used to build Internet infrastructure like laying of fibre optic cable around the country.
“So far, we have already laid 46 km of underground fibre optic cable in Kigali...Where we haven’t reached, we lease from the government some of the ducts on a long-term basis,” he explained in an interview with The New Times.
Nkusi said they were looking at connecting 3,500 homes and commercial buildings to the Internet by the end of this year.
The company, which has 1,235 customers, including telecom firms Airtel and Tigo, seeks to take advantage of Rwanda’s central Africa geographical position to serve as an Internet services hub for the region, he added.
“Rwanda is key in connecting east and central African capitals with route diversity and reliability.”
Nkusi said the investment, particularly in infrastructure, would greatly increase Internet penetration levels in the region.
June statistics from the regulator, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) show that there were 2,585,117 Internet subscribers in the country shared among the three telecoms, 2,571,500 of whom use mobile Internet, representing penetration rate of 25 per cent.
Liquid Telecom is second after MTN Rwanda in terms of revenues earned from the sector and Internet bandwidth.
During the second quarter of the year, the company earned Rwf1.2 billion to the sector’s total earnings of Rwf36.5 billion. The industry has nine Internet service providers.
Liquid Telecom, in which Econet Wireless Global owns a majority stake, is also constructing a fibre optic cable network across southern Africa, covering Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Nkusi, also the firm’s regional executive for Eastern Africa, was optimistic that once the infrastructure is in place it will improve Internet speed, enabling more businesses to use Internet to ease processes.
“The challenge is that we are looking at Internet usage as a one-way process instead of two-way, with people uploading content as much as they download,” he said.
He said with the introduction of fourth generation Long-Term Evolution (4G LTE) Internet, their investment in infrastructure will be able to reach the untapped areas of the country and provide a platform that will ease businesses operations.
Spearheaded by Olleh Rwanda Networks (ORN), a joint venture between the government and Korea Telecom, 4G Internet is expected to usher in many advantages to Internet users, including download and upload speed, which is rated to be 10 times faster than other Internet modules.
4G Internet was introduced recently on a pilot phase, but will be launched officially next month.
“We want to ensure value-added services for clients and also ensure people do business without interruptions,” said Nkusi.
Two years ago, Rwanda had Internet capacity of two gigabytes per second. Today, the capacity is at 10 gigabytes per second, which, according to Nkusi, is a tremendous improvement.
Headquartered in Mauritius, Liquid Telecom also provides satellite and international carrier services to mobile networks, Internet service providers and businesses.