The Rwandan government will invest Frw1.5 billion in rural telecommunication development this year as part of its efforts to increase the rate of telecommunication penetration in the country and bridge the telecommunication gap.
Col. Eugène Mudenge, managing director of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), said the fund comes from two per cent of the total turnover collected from Rwandatel and MTN Rwanda Cell last year.
Every year, the two giant telecommunication companies in the country are required by law to pay two per cent of their total turnover as license charges.
The government decided to channel this money to New Artel, a company which provides both Very Small Aperture Terminal (Vsat) and fiber optic cable internet connectivity.
This will allow New Artel to use the universal access fund to provide telecommunication services in rural areas which MTN Rwanda cell and Rwandatel do not cover.
“You either play or pay,” Mudenge said, meaning if the company can extend to the rural community, it does not pay this percentage.
Françis Karemera, New Artel chief executive officer, said the company has now connected government agencies in rural areas to their servers.
Currently Artel has capacity of 80 megabytes per second of the internet track in rural areas. It also has 16 megabytes of the VSAT, which offers broadband satellite internet.
Since only one megabyte of internet costs $4,000 (Frw2.1-million), the money paid to Artel by government is aimed at extending internet in rural areas at a cost of only $500 (Frw271,000).
Karemera said New Artel plans to increase their internet supply capacity to the rural areas to 150 megabytes by October this year because demand is increasing.
The public consume 90 per cent of the internet supplied, leaving only 10 per cent unconsumed. But given the growing internet demand, Artel finds it essential to increase its supply.
This also comes at a time when the government is set to roll out the national backbone cable which will cost about $49 million (Frw26.6-billion). The fiber loops will be about 1,300 kilometres long.